10 February 2014

Ski Jumping and Thoughts on Science and Sports

I worked on a piece for the New York Times on ski jumping.  The graphics are great!  Click here for the story.  It's about time women get to compete for Olympic gold in this event!  There is so much wonderful physics in ski jumping.  The "V" style alone has increased lift by about 30% over the old skies-pointed-forward style.  Look for some birds that spread their feathers while in flight, increasing lift just like the separated skies of a ski jumper.  We may learn a lot from evolution!

I was invited to write a short blog post for the Johns Hopkins University Press.  The topic is science and the Winter Olympics.  Click here for the post.  In no way does understanding some science behind sports diminish the viewing experience.  There is so much beauty in the laws of nature, and I marvel at how human beings continually push the envelope of what's possible.  The athletes are special, but so are the scientists who design better and better equipment, craft more sophisticated training regimen, and use modeling to find seemingly small ways that improve performance.  For events timed to the nearest thousandth of a second, tiny improvements may mean the difference between seeing one's country's flag from the podium and watching from the stands.


  1. I'll bet ski jumpers could improve by adopting skydiving tracking techniques. In particular--roll the shoulders forward, put palms toward the ground with arms slightly curved, to give a better airfoil shape. Skydivers have lots of time during tracking competitions to experiment and compare directly with others, and can perfect their techniques better than ski jumpers. I tell you, the first ski jumper to copy skydiviers will gain a meter or more!

  2. Interesting comment, Larry. Athletes are often looking at sports outside their own for possible advantages. I'll have to look into how much attention ski jumpers have given skydiving.

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