Stories tagged nice but PARABOLICS anyone

Feb
14
2006

They fly through the air with the greatest of ease....and a bunch of science.


Ski jumper: Photo courtesy Morgan Goodwin, Calgary Canada.

When you're watching the ski jumpers fly off the huge hills at Torino during the Winter Olympics, you're not just seeing bravery and athleticism on display. You're also seeing some science.

While the forces of gravity eventually win out, the aerodynamics of lift play a big role in the outcome of the event. The way the jumpers position their skis and their bodies has will affect the air flows around them. The best jumpers will have mastered aerodynamics along with their physical training to get on to the medal stand.

The jumpers rely on scientific principles developed hundreds of years ago. The first is Isaac Newton's law that any action causes an equal and opposite reaction. In the case of ski jumping, the jumper's body and skis will push some air down. The reaction from that is that some air will actually then push the skier up.

The second scientific law in play is Daniel Bernouli's discovery that air pressure drops as air moves faster. Ski jumpers who know that will position their bodies so the air above them moves faster. The slower air beneath them will have more pressure, giving the skier another dimension of lift.

Another big change in ski jumping came in 1985 with the creation of the "V" position — holding their skies wide apart in front of them and crossed behind them. While the "V" was initially laughed at, jumpers discovered that it gave them a lot more distance. Jumpers were able to add up to 100 meters more distance to their jump with the change.