Week in Geek: The physics of the Winter Olympics


What strikes me when I watch Olympic athletes is how their brains (and ours) have an intuitive understanding of physical concepts like acceleration, angular momentum and torque. I’m guessing many of you have seen the classic demonstration of conservation of angular momentum featuring a spinning ice skater, but this series from the National Science Foundation (and NBCLearn) goes way beyond that into the engineering of the half pipe for snowboarders like Shaun White, the aerodynamics of Shani Davis’s speed skating suit, and the science of snow and ice and their effects on the competitors. Nick Goepper’s slope style skiing skills are a physics lesson unto themselves. And if that weren’t enough, roboticists are applying what they learn from studying Olympians to create “athletic” robots. Yeah, I said athletic robots.

In related Olympic geek, here’s what some of the famous winter events would look like to scale if you dropped them into the middle of Manhattan. Personally, I think a luge in Times Square would be a welcome attraction.

More great geek from the week:

Go Team Geek! Go Team USA!