Stories tagged skiing

Feb
26
2013

Meteor might: The vapor trail shows the path of a meteor that streaked across the Russian skies earlier this month.
Meteor might: The vapor trail shows the path of a meteor that streaked across the Russian skies earlier this month.Courtesy Nikita Plekhanov
What do you get when you cross cross-country skiing with trigonometry? You get answers to exactly what happened in Russia a couple weeks ago when a meteor flashed across the sky. Click here to see the earlier Buzz post about the event.

Using video footage gathered from various sources and knowing the landing point of the meteor, scientists in Columbia have been able to recreate its path to Earth, including the boom-a-rang effect it had in orbiting around the sun. A separate group of researcher have pinpointed that the meteor came from an asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

And closer to the scene of the impact, cross-country skiers have crisscrossed over the 31-mile-long debris field below the meteor's path, collecting more than 100 pieces of meteorite, the biggest being 2.2 pounds.

Some chunks are for sale for as much as $16,000. How much would you be willing to spend for a piece of space debris? How much would you be willing to spend now that you know it's probably 4.5 billion years old?

Feb
17
2010

The skinny on ski jumping: New regulations are in place in international ski jumping competition to discourage eating disorders among competitors. Lighter is better in the sport, but officials don't want competitors to get unhealthily too light.
The skinny on ski jumping: New regulations are in place in international ski jumping competition to discourage eating disorders among competitors. Lighter is better in the sport, but officials don't want competitors to get unhealthily too light.Courtesy Morgan Goodwin
Do you feel like me – that the Winter Olympics coverage is hours of commercials interrupted by occasional bursts of winter sports activities? Well, rather than watch those same commercials for the 123rd time, here are some interesting links that can add some scientific understanding to the amazing things we occasionally get to see during the TV coverage. Click on these links to fill in the time wasted on all of those commercials. And then you can thank me after the games are done.

Just how dangerous are winter sports anyway? We got a strong sense of the dangers involved just before the games started when a German luge racer was killed from injuries suffered in a training run wipe-out. This story takes an analytical look at how dangerous ice and snow sports really are. And here's a story on why doctors strongly urge you to wear a helmet when snowboarding or skiing, even if it's just a leisurely run on your local ski hill.

Ski jumpers aren't being accused of using steroids....it's just the opposite. New regulations are in place to prevent excessive weight loss, including linking ski length to body mass index among competitors. Find out more here.

Will a ton of new world records be set on the speed skating rink? New technologies in racing suit designs – "(suits) more aerodynamic than human skin" – will be used in this Olympics. It's good to know that there is now a disincentive to naked speed skating in the games.

Why do they have that funky blue paint on the ski and snowboard courses? Find out more here.

Over the weekend, ARTiFactor posted a number of NBC's video reports on scientific aspects of specific sports. You can learn more here about:
Curling science
Skate technology
Ski technology
Snowboarding physics
Figure skating physics
Bobsled physics
Short-track speed skating physics

U.S. Ski Team members Julia Mancuso, Ted Ligety and Scott Macartney, and Katharine Flores, an associate professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Ohio State University, explain how the materials used to make skis play a vital role in their performance on the mountain.

When I bike, I almost always wear a helmet. When I ski (or least when I used to ski) I never wore a helmet. This week's death of actress Natasha Richardson from head injuries sustained in a fall while skiing have re-ignited debate over wearing helmets while skiing. A full summary of the issue can be found here. My own two cents worth: Design a ski helmet with extra insulation for keeping my head warm, and it's on my head in a second. What's your opinion on skiing with or without a helmet?

Jan
23
2008

Edge of the avalanche: Skiers in Norway this winter were carefully navigating their way along a high-risk avalanche area.
Edge of the avalanche: Skiers in Norway this winter were carefully navigating their way along a high-risk avalanche area.Courtesy Jef Maion
Several recent winters of below average snow falls in the U.S. have left skiers and snowmobilers chomping at the bit. But this year there has been a steady diet of snow to keep everyone schussing and zooming about.

Great news, right? For the most part, yes. But with the increased snow comes increased risk of avalanches. And with the reported avalanche deaths in the country through mid January numbering 15, we’re on pace to top the national record of 35 avalanche-related deaths that was set in the 2001-02 snow season. Typically, there are about 25 avalanche deaths nationwide each winter. In Washington state alone, however, there have been nine deaths already this season compared to an annual average of just two avalanche-related deaths per season.

What’s to blame for the unusual spike in snowy deaths? Weather experts are putting out a couple theories.

Race that avalanche: Science Buzz recommends that you don't try this the next time you hit the slopes. Avalanches can get roll much faster than most of us can ever hope to ski.
Race that avalanche: Science Buzz recommends that you don't try this the next time you hit the slopes. Avalanches can get roll much faster than most of us can ever hope to ski.Courtesy Andre Charland
First, there’s the growing popularity of backcountry skiing and snowmobiling. What used to be the sole domain of specially trained and equipped backcountry experts is opening up to more people seeking those special thrills, some who are not well-trained in avalanche dangers. Snow can break free in an avalanche just from the sound of snowmobiles or the sudden push off of ski.

Second, the western mountain ranges are getting a different combination of snow this season, due in part to La Niña weather conditions. The La Niña has doubled the amount of snowfall in many places in the west, but warmer weather in the fall, and during the snowfalls, have left the snow crust on the top of recent snowfalls weaker and easier to break loose into an avalanche.

Should anything be done with this more-dangerous-than-normal situation? In Europe, they don’t allow people to drive snowmobiles in the Alps to decrease avalanche risks. Should we try something like that here? Or are these snow fans assuming the risks when partaking in activities in like this? Share your thoughts here with other Science Buzz readers.

And courtesy of National Geographic, here's an interactive experience where you can create your own mountain avalanche.

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.