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.
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.
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.
Part of the fun of watching the Olympics is living vicariously through your country's team. We like to think that if circumstances had been different, if we watched a little less Netflix, if our parents had just made us take gymnastics at an early age, or if we hadn't quit swimming to be a townsperson in the school musical, maybe that would be us on TV telling reporters how "speechless" and "thankful" we are to have won in front of the whole world.
The human body already has a highly efficient cooling system: As perspiration evaporates, it draws heat away from the body. Wicking fabrics facilitate this process by distributing sweat evenly over the fabric, so that it dries more quickly. Despite devising cheats, such as menthol-like chemical coatings added to fabrics, companies have never actually improved upon the body's natural cooling process. Designers at Columbia Sportswear have now made a fabric that does.
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.
World record after world record after world record
By Daniel EngberPosted 07.30.2012 at 10:02 am 2 Comments
Even if athletes never got any stronger or faster, and if their techniques and training never changed, they would still break records from time to time. That’s because the ability of each person who decides to compete, and the outcome of each competition, are affected by random processes. What happened on the way to the track that might affect the athletes’ performance? What’s the weather like? And so on. Every sporting event is a matter of chance as well as of achievement, and chance always offers the possibility of a breakthrough.