Stories tagged olympics

Aug
04
2008

Cleared for take-off: Flips like this off of a diving board are the top-rated cause of injuries suffered while diving.
Cleared for take-off: Flips like this off of a diving board are the top-rated cause of injuries suffered while diving.Courtesy Me
Continuing with our flurry of Olympic-related posts here on the Buzz, a new study has come out analyzing the risks that diving boards pose at swimming pools across the U.S. It’s actually the first comprehensive study done on the topic.

And the numbers were surprising, at least to me. Statistically, a person sustains an injury from actions involving a diving board every hour of every day that swimming pools are open, according to the study. The full details are available here.

On an annual basis, emergency rooms treat about 6,500 kids who sustain diving related injuries. This doesn’t come as a big surprise, most of those injuries involved divers attempting to do flips or twists who struck the diving board on their way back down toward the water.

I don’t know if this is good news or bad news, but 80 percent of the injuries occur on low-level diving boards, those just one meter or less above the water’s surface. And kids between the ages of 10 and 14 are the most likely to suffer an injury from a diving board. Boys are more than twice as likely as girls to suffer a severe injury to their neck or back from diving.

What do you think of all of this? Have you suffered an injury or had a close call while diving? Share your stories and viewpoints here with other Science Buzz readers.

Aug
02
2008

The East German Women's Swim Team: Members share a laugh between events at the 1952 Summer Games in Helsinki.
The East German Women's Swim Team: Members share a laugh between events at the 1952 Summer Games in Helsinki.Courtesy Mark Ryan
As athletes around the world gear up for the upcoming Beijing Olympics, officials in China are setting a sex-determination laboratory to confirm the gender of some of the competitors.

Despite objections by some medical ethicists that the tests are too intrusive, suspected “female” athletes will be checked for external appearance, genes, and hormones. Particular scrutiny will be given to women who are able to find the laboratory at the Peking Union Medical College Hospital without having to stop to ask directions.

The lab is a holdover from previous Olympics when questions were raised about the gender of several “female” athletes from some Soviet Bloc countries. From then on, every woman wanting to compete in the Games had to submit to a sex-evaluation screening that required them to walk naked in front of a committee of doctors. This was replaced in 1968 with chromosome tests. Blanket testing was eliminated in 1999, and now only “suspect” women – like those who leave the toilet seat up - will be tested.

“We must be ready to take on such cases should they arise,” said Arne Ljungqvist, chairman of the IOC’s medical commission. “Sometimes, fingers are pointed at particular female athletes, and in order to protect them, we have to be able to investigate it and clarify.”

Throughout its existence the mandatory testing program has never led to a single confirmed case of males impersonating females to gain an edge in the Games. Several cases of gender suspicion arose in Atlanta in 1996 when eight women failed to pass a genetic test, but they were cleared after it was determined they all suffered from a birth defect that presented no advantage other than being able to parallel park.

Prior to the tests, there’s only been one confirmed case of a male impersonating a female in the Games. In 1936, Hermann Ratjen was forced by the Nazis to compete as Dora Ratjen in the women’s high jump during the Berlin Olympics. He confessed to the subterfuge in 1956 but only after being confronted with rumors that he had been overheard telling a teammate a joke without botching the punch line.

SOURCE and LINKS

NY Times story
Guardian story

Jul
25
2008

Hold your horses: Chariot races were a big part of the original Olympic games. Archaeologists in Greece believe they have found the orginial hippodrome race track where those races were contested.
Hold your horses: Chariot races were a big part of the original Olympic games. Archaeologists in Greece believe they have found the orginial hippodrome race track where those races were contested.Courtesy A. Brady
Do you have Olympic fever yet? The Beijing Games get underway in just two weeks. And of course, there are bound to be a bunch of new events.

But what I’d like to see is a throwback to one of the old events: chariot races. The idea popped into my head today when reading this article that archaeologists in Greece may have found the ancient hippodrome – fancy term for track – used for chariot races in the original Olympics.

A team of German researchers, using geomagnetic technology to take pictures of structures under the ground, believes it has found the chariot track of Olympia. It was last visible some 1,600 years ago before it was buried in a river of mud. Get the full details here.

The geomagnetic technology has undiscovered an ancient circuit that stretches of nearly 656 feet underneath an area that’s now fields and olive groves. The next step in the process will be to do spot digs at the site to go down and find out what is actually there.

Part of the oblong track's distinctive outline was documented some seven feet (two meters) beneath fields and olive groves and extended almost 656 feet (200 meters) in length. Documents from Greek texts of the past peg the size of the chariot track at 3,444 feet long and featuring very elaborate starting gates, sharp turns and fancy distance posts.

Also, chariot racers where the only old Greeks to be clothed while competing. While other athletes competed nude, chariot drivers wore tunics.

So come on International Olympic Committee and NBC, let’s bring back the good old days of chariot races at the games. My hot tip – but don’t tell anyone you heard it from me – is to bet on the guy who looks most like Charleton Heston driving a team of white horses.

A massive algae bloom is choking China’s Yellow Sea and threatening some Olympic events. Many Chinese cities dump untreated sewage into the Sea. Rich in nutrients, the sewage makes the algae grow like crazy. The problem goes beyond the inconvenience to boaters. The growing algae changes the near-shore habitat. And when all this algae dies, the bacteria that decays it sucks oxygen out of the water, killing fish and creating a dead zone.

May
16
2008

Blades of glory: Disabled South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius is challenging rules that prevent him from competing in the Beijing Olympics. He's the current world record holder in the Para Olympics 400 meters.
Blades of glory: Disabled South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius is challenging rules that prevent him from competing in the Beijing Olympics. He's the current world record holder in the Para Olympics 400 meters.Courtesy Twisted Physics
Can a disability turn into an advantage on the running track?

That’s the question that double-amputee South African sprinter is forcing Olympic officials to deal with this spring. Oscar Pistorius, in his latest round of legal challenges, has won a ruling that he can compete for a spot in the Beijing Olympics taking place this summer.

Pistorius is nicknamed “Blade runner” because during competitions he uses to springy prosthesises on the bottom of his legs that look like big blades.

He wants to compete in the 400 meters and has a career best time in that race of 46.56 seconds. But that’s a bit off of the Olympic qualifying time of 45.55. With this new ruling, even if he doesn’t hit that qualifying standard, South African track officials could have him run segment of relay races. The 400 meters is a sprint that encompasses one lap of the standard running track.

Is this fair?

Those in the established track community contend that the “blades” give Pistorius a mechanical advantage over regular-limbed runners. Yet, his career best 400-meter time of 46.56 is also the Para Olympics world record for that distance. The able-bodied world record for the 400 meters is 43.18 seconds held by the U.S.’s Michael Johnson.

What do you think, does Pistorius have a mechanical edge with his blade feet? Should he be allowed to compete at the Olympic level if he can post a qualifying time? Share your thoughts here with other Science Buzz readers.

Jul
30
2007

Pooped out?: A new Chinese business venture hopes to convert Panda poop into attractive souvenirs that Summer Olympic visitors will buy next year.
Pooped out?: A new Chinese business venture hopes to convert Panda poop into attractive souvenirs that Summer Olympic visitors will buy next year.
One of my favorite volunteers here at the museum does a lot of activities with artificial scat: that’s science lingo for animal poop.

I guess I’ve been hanging out with him too much, cause this story just jumped off the screen screaming for my attention.

A new company in Sichuan, China, is making odor-free souvenirs for next year’s Summer Olympic games out of Panda poop. You’ll have your choice of everything from dung-y bookmarks to miniature statues of the animals that produced the medium.

"We used to spend at least $770 a month to get rid of the droppings but now they can be lucrative," Jing Shimin, assistant to the base director, was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency. About 40 pandas are housed at the site and put out nearly a ton of panda poop a year.

A lot of production work goes into the process. All dung is smashed, dried and sterilized at 572 degrees F. The finished products are dyed giving them a variety of colors. The Olympic figurines will show the Pandas posed in a number of athletic positions.

Feb
17
2006

U.S. and Canadian slalom skiers are wearing lightweight, flexible protective gear made from a new material (d3o) that hardens into armor when it's crashed into.


ski suits: A new material, d3o, means these racing suits are only hard when they need to be. (Photo courtesy Spyder)

Normally, skiers wear hard arm and leg guards to protect themselves from poles along the slalom run. But the Colorado-based skiwear company Spyder created racing suits with d3o along the shins and forearms, and the suits caught on.

The exact chemical composition of d3o is a trade secret, but it's made by combining a viscose fluid and a polymer, then pouring the liquid d3o into a mold that matches the shape of the body part needing protection.

According to a New Scientist article,

"The resulting material exhibits a material property called 'strain rate sensitivity'. Under normal conditions the molecules within the material are weakly bound and can move past each with ease, making the material flexible. But the shock of sudden deformation causes the chemical bonds to strengthen and the moving molecules to lock, turning the material into a more solid, protective shield.

Pretty cool.

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.