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The Science of the Olympics

I've always been a fan of the Winter Olympics, but a bout with the flu in 2002 that kept me at home watching TV for a week made me an addict. But it's not just about watching hours of skiing and skating. There's science, too, and it seems to be everywhere this year. Here are some good resources and...

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Speed skating requires technique, good physiology and state-of-the-art technology (courtesy of flickr user daniel_dimarco)



I've always been a fan of the Winter Olympics, but a bout with the flu in 2002 that kept me at home watching TV for a week made me an addict. But it's not just about watching hours of skiing and skating. There's science, too, and it seems to be everywhere this year. Here are some good resources and news stories that find the science in the Winter Games:



Science of the Olympic Winter Games: This site, from NBC Learn and the National Science Foundation, has videos explaining a host of subjects, from the physics of the hockey slapshot to how friction works in curling. (Lesson plans are available here.)



Winter Olympics: Sport & Science: Montana State University provides mini-courses on three Olympic themes--sports nutrition, physics and biomechanics, and physiology and psychology.



The New York Times Learning Network blog has suggestions for a 2010 Winter Olympics Teaching and Learning Extravaganza. And Teachervision has even more resources.



In recent news, CTV in Canada explored The Science of Long Track Speed Skating and found that a winning skater must combine good technique with physiology and technology.



Wind resistance plays a role in any race, including skeleton, that crazy sport in which "sliders" hurl themselves down the tube-like course head first. To get an advantage this year, the U.S. team studied sled forces in a high-tech simulator, as Scientific American reported yesterday.



How about the Science of Curling? Apparently the sweeping is very important and even though it might not appear taxing, curlers can develop fatigue.



And USA Today reexamined a 2005 study that had found that red-clad boxers at the Olympics did better than their fellows in blue. It turns out that a key assumption in the study--that red and blue attire was randomly assigned--was wrong. On second look, wearing red didn't affect the outcome of a bout.

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About Sarah Zielinski
Sarah Zielinski

Sarah Zielinski is an award-winning science writer and editor. She is a contributing writer in science for Smithsonian.com and blogs at Wild Things, which appears on Science News.

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