Now that the Olympics are done, we can reflect on the big moments. (Usain Bolt's lightspeed 100-meter win and Michael Phelps's sunken-pirate-ship levels of gold come to mind.) But if we pull the historical camera back even farther, we can look at the big picture, seeing exactly how much of a blip on the timeline this year made. With that in mind, we've created an interactive graph that shows every gold-medal time for several events and annotations for years that were outliers, or that were just especially interesting (including tech like the Speedo LZR suit, or less-known developments like the official roughening of the javelin to handicap the competitors). It's a look at how technology, smarts, and super-human ability brought the Games to where they are now.
To help prepare for track meets, competitive 5K races and especially the Olympics, Boston-based runner Ruben Sanca runs 116 miles per week, takes vitamins and mostly watches his diet. But he would still feel fatigued after training runs. Then a blood analysis and a special software program revealed his internal chemistry needed some adjusting.
This article originally appeared in the May 1941 issue of Popular Science. You can explore more of our archives--stretching back 140 years--here.
No one can accuse our colleagues from PopSci's past of not trying. They devoted a large section to tips (with illustrations!) to staying healthy, with assistance from science. Some of those tips, like warnings about diet pills, could be printed today and no one would bat an eye--but others, like chores being enough exercise for "a housewife," maybe not so much. Check out the gallery for them all.
It's widely assumed that training on top of a mountain will give an athlete a major leg-up when competing closer to sea level. But it turns out it's not quite that simple, and in fact, athletes are discouraged from conducting training exclusively at high altitudes. How much altitude training helps, and how to tweak the finer points of a high-altitude training regimen are questions still under consideration. It's not nearly as simple as running on a mountain, coming down, and feeling prepped for your marathon.
On Monday, American judo competitor Nick Delpopolo was expelled from the Olympics for doping with cannabis. (He says he accidentally ate a pot brownie.) The key word here is "doping"--if the situation were different, Delpopolo might just have been "using." Cannabis is on the Prohibited List, a catalogue of banned drugs maintained by the World Anti-Doping Agency, or WADA. Test positive for a drug on WADA's list? You're doping, and face dismissal from the Games. Test positive for anything else, even if it's illegal? No worries--you're free to compete. This is one powerful list. But why is cannabis, the users of which are not necessarily renowned for their athletic ability, on it?
It's easy to take for granted just how insanely close some Olympic races are, and how much the minutiae of it all can matter. The perfect example is the traditional starting gun. Seems easy. You pull a trigger and the race starts. Boom. What people don't consider: When a conventional gun goes off, the sound travels to the ears of the closest runner a fraction of a second sooner than the others.
It's now two Olympics running that Usain Bolt has dominated the 100-meter dash, breaking Olympic records both times and being crowned fastest man in the world. He's so good that it's drawn the attention of top engineers and scientists who want to know the biomechanics--the physics behind his movement--that give Bolt his competitive edge.
Right now in London and various sites around the UK, more than half a million international travelers are sharing stories, beers, doner kebabs, close living quarters and--let's be frank--the occasional mattress. Roughly 17,000 athletes and officials from hundreds of countries are packed into the Olympic Village alone, and that doesn't take into account the spectators--more than 8 million tickets will be punched at the Games--who have piled on top of greater London's nearly 8 million inhabitants. Culturally speaking, it's a marvel that we can do this and all get well enough along.
1926 sports aficionados give their opinions on why women can't reach the "masculine standard"
By Arthur GrahamePosted 07.31.2012 at 2:15 pm 4 Comments
This article originally appeared in the November 1926 issue of Popular Science. You can explore more of our archives--stretching back 140 years--here.
While tennis and golf were possible--if uncomfortable--in the "sport" clothes of the early years of the current century, speed swimming and track and field athletics, the two other branches of sport in which the woman of today has shown the most interest and the greatest ability, were next to impossible. No girl could run fast or swim fast while hampered in every movement by the clinging folds of useless cloth demanded by a convention of false modesty. It was not until the dawn of the present "jazz" age disclosed the startling fact that girls have legs like other people that woman discarded the senseless athletic clothing that had hampered her, and began to make real progress in sports.
That progress has been startlingly rapid, but in every sport there still remains a big gap between the best performances of men and the best performances of women. And in the opinion of most sport experts, women athletes will never be able to close that gap.
In the short time since the opening ceremonies of the London Games, we've seen the usual kind of Twitter-related stories--a Swiss soccer player banned for a racist tweet, everybody everywhere voicing their complaints about NBC's mostly abysmal coverage, that kind of thing. But there's some weirder, darker undercurrents going on, with journalists blocked, kids arrested, and free speech on Twitter seeming a much more questionable right than it might have seemed during the Arab Spring.