Olympic Tech: Bobsled Aerodynamics, Curling Science, and More

By Andrew Moseman | February 19, 2010 4:46 pm

curlingWe’re a week into the Vancouver Olympics, and if you haven’t had your fill of world-class athletes frolicking on the ice in frilly clothing, playing ice shuffleboard with 4o-plus-pound stones, or hurtling downhill at terrifying speed, don’t worry: There’s more than a week left to go. And there will be feats of dizzying daring and velocity, since Olympians don’t settle for just terrifying speed when there’s a chance to attain ridiculous speed, or even ludicrous speed. Thankfully, the Olympics are a bastion of technology, not just sport.

Take bobsledding. Team USA has been working with the Exa Corporation to develop the most aerodynamic sled possible, by computationally mapping fluid dynamics of air rushing past the sled. Says Exa’s Brad Duncan, “We’ve heard that some other countries are using more traditional processes where they do testing in wind tunnels…. That’s where the U.S. team was able to leapfrog the competition, was to do digital testing” [LiveScience]. The sleds could reach up to 95 miles an hour in the race, and designer Bob Cuneo says the sled design is a huge factor. Ultimately, Cuneo estimates that about a third of the team’s success in Vancouver comes down to engineering [Popular Mechanics].

Then there’s curling. Every time the winter Olympics roll around the game attracts weird curiosity and lame participatory journalism (and this time even a Simpsons episode). Scientists have started investigating the science behind guiding the stone down the ice to its target, the house, through the player’s vigorous sweeping. According to exercise physiologist John Bradley, sweepers can get their heart rates up to 170 to 200 beats per minute. Still, curlers’ physiques usually draw some chuckles. “Since most of the curlers in the world are in colder climates, you’re not going to see bronzed, beach physiques curling very often,” said Jonathan Reeser, a sports injury epidemiologist, [Fox News] who engages in curling himself.

The reason curling sweepers do all that sweeping is to change the temperature of the ice in front of the stone, and Bradley’s research helped to show the ideal way to do it. When the stone is traveling faster it is more effective to sweep faster because it enables sweepers to cover the same spot of ice more than once and raise its temperature higher. “And if the stone’s traveling slower then you can begin to put more downward pressure into the ice” [Fox News], he says.

One could go on and on, as all the Olympic sports are intertwined with technology. But there are a mountain of other tech stories, because even putting on the Olympics is a huge technological achievement (as one sees when things go wrong, like the glitches that began during the opening ceremony and that have continued to plague the games). CNET reports that it will take more than 40,000 Ethernet ports and 7,000 two-way radios to keep the games going. In addition, this year’s Games make a significant change in the technology setup. In past years, organizers set up separate data and voice networks, but this year all the video, data, and voice will traverse one massive Internet Protocol network set up by Atos Origin, Bell Canada, Avaya, and others [CNET].

Related Content:
DISCOVER: The Newest Olympic Event: Scientific Discovery
80beats: Geneticists Are On the Lookout for the First Gene Doping Athletes
80beats: Debate Over South African Runner Spotlights Confusing Nature of Gender
80beats: Olympic Pistol Shooter Used Anti-Trembling Drug To Steady His Hand
80beats: Scientist Smackdown: Are a Sprinter’s Prosthetic Legs an Unfair Advantage?
DISCOVER: Will Genetic Therapy Destroy Sports? explores the potential for genetic doping
DISCOVER: Can Future Olympic Cities Go Greener Than Beijing?

Image: flickr / Bensonkua

MORE ABOUT: Olympics, sports
  • http://www.drain-clearance.info drains

    I have stunned myself and begun to get engaged in curling when viewing the winter olympics in Vancover Canada. To begin with it appeared like a briefer version of bowling but now I see it has all the calclating of a game of chess. At the moment I am getting as much as I am able on the sport from the Web. Then after that I will be ascertaining somewhere to have a try like the nearby skating rink.

  • http://youtube.com Mr. masterbate

    This is just a waste of time…STUPID! Nobody really cares about bobsleigh crap or curling. Get a REAL life!!!

  • http://www.pondforfish.com Pond Fish

    I think that last comment was uncalled for. Some people need to chill out!

  • http://www.justwideshoes.com Berry Noffsinger

    I’m going to let you in on a little time sensitive secret. I won’t go into all the details because you should just see the page and watch the video to get the whole scoop. Basically, this is an underground software that you simply have to see to believe. Imagine making money 24 hours a day without even needing a website. Imagine never having to write articles, pay for clicks, build and maintain websites, and all that. The reason this software is so secret is due to the fact that if everyone had access to it, it would simply cut down on the amount of money that the rest of us could make. What this software actually does is something that you have never seen before. Since this is not the usual SEO software, you don’t have to wait to see results. You can start to see results in as little as 30 seconds after activation. If you are tired of slaving your life away looking for the next big thing and spending 10 or more hours a day trying to play by the search engine rules, you really need to check this out -> http://adf.ly/1Ty1K

  • server files

    Hey ,
    Nice post !
    Thanks for share with us !

    BTW , Check Out My New Site :

  • http://www.ruthamcaungay.com/ ruthamcau

    Hello, what a good information in your blog listed here The public is the solid foundation for charity Regards, Verna Vukich

  • http://ebaycouponcodes2011.com ebay coupon codes 2011

    Some truly fantastic posts on this internet site , appreciate it for contribution.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


80beats is DISCOVER's news aggregator, weaving together the choicest tidbits from the best articles covering the day's most compelling topics.

See More

Collapse bottom bar