Friday, September 20, 2024
Home Tech Do jewelry and voluminous hair slow down Olympic runners?

# Do jewelry and voluminous hair slow down Olympic runners?

0 comment

To become an Olympic champion, athletes spend years perfecting every aspect of their performance. That same attention to detail applies to the sleek, lightweight uniforms they wear, because at this level the slightest advantage can affect the outcome.

And what about the high-fashion hairstyles and flashy accessories at the Paris Olympics? In the final photo of the men’s 100-meter race, Team USA’s Noah Lyles is seen sporting a heavy diamond chain around his neck and a big Omega Speedmaster watch.

Lyles won, with a time 0.005 seconds faster than her rival, but would she have managed a faster time without the extra weight? Could sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson have won gold instead of silver in the women’s 100m without that long, flowing mane?

Personally, I still consider Richardson the winner for his style and flair. But do these factors influence finishing times? That’s a question for coach Isaac Newton.

## A basic operating model

If we really get into biomechanics, the physics of running is quite complicated. But for our purposes, since we just want to estimate the differences, a simple model will suffice.

From the start, a sprinter gradually gains speed. However, even over a short distance like 100 meters, he doesn’t accelerate all the time. At some point he reaches a constant speed or even slows down a bit. I’m going to model a sprinter who accelerates for the first 30 meters and then reaches a constant speed of 11 meters per second (25 mph). If we plot speed against time, it looks like this:

Let’s focus on the acceleration phase of this sprint. If an object is accelerated, there must be a net force which acts on that object in the direction of acceleration. That is Newton’s second law: Fnet = mass x acceleration. What forces act on a running human? Here is a picture: