How Science Changed the Olympics

How force and motion shape the Olympics.

While neither are Olympic sports, the science of force and motion has everything to do with an athlete’s performance at the Olympics. Athletic skill combined with a few important lessons from physics class result in world-class performance.

Experiment

The Discus Secret – Did you know that greater distances can be achieved by throwing the discus into a moderate headwind? This is due to the importance of the aerodynamic lift produced by the discus in flight. Learn more

Freestyle Swimming – What’s the best position for my hands when I swim freestyle? If you learned to swim before the mid-1970s (and maybe later, depending on the coach), you were probably taught to pull your hand straight backward through the water like a canoe paddle. With this stroke, you move forward by pushing against the water. It turns out that’s not the best way to propel yourself through the water. Learn more

Javelin Aerodynamics – Along with the discus, the javelin first appeared in competition in the ancient games in 708 B.C. The redesign of the javelin in 1953 changed the aerodynamics so much that the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) had to adopt new rules to keep athletes from throwing the javelin too far. Learn more

Additional Info

You’ll find more interesting facts and hands-on science activities used on today’s segment in the book The Big Book of Air and Space Flight Activities by Jani Macari Pallis.