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The US Swim Team's Secret Weapon, Science

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the but-not-chemistry dept.

Science 180

Hugh Pickens writes "When American Swimmer Margaret Hoelzer goes for the gold tonight in the 200-meter backstroke, part of her success will be due to a new system developed by Tim Wei, a mechanical and aerospace engineer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, that uses fluid dynamics to study human movement allowing scientists and coaches to study how fast and hard a swimmer pushes the water as he moves through it. 'Wei uses a tracking technique called digital particle image velocimetry, commonly used to measure the flow of small particles around an airplane or small fish or crustaceans in water.' Wei filtered compressed air in a scuba tank through a porous hose to create bubbles about a tenth of a millimeter in diameter. When an athlete swims through a sheet of bubbles that rises from the pool floor, a camera captures their flow around the swimmer's body and the images show the direction and speed of the bubbles, which Wei then translates into the swimmer's thrust using software that he wrote."

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Sexism (5, Funny)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621425)

From TFS:

"When American Swimmer Margaret Hoelzer goes for the gold tonight in the 200-meter backstroke..."
"...to study how fast and hard a swimmer pushes the water as he moves through it."

I'm Margaret Hoelzer, you insensitive sexist swimsuit-designing clods!

Re:Sexism (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24621463)

the 'he' is referring to 'a swimmer' just a few words before

Re:Sexism (5, Funny)

DeadDecoy (877617) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621481)

Can you really fault them, most slashdotters have never seen a woman before.

Problems with slashdot...is it just me? (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621529)

Is it just me or do other people never see the first post?

I can see this reply, but what's it replying to? No idea....

Re:Problems with slashdot...is it just me? (2, Informative)

DeadDecoy (877617) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621653)

First port got modded troll. I think, if the first few posts get modded down, they disappear from view. The purpose of this is to remove first-spammers. And ya, my reply seems kinda dumb outa context :P.
O well, this will get modded off topic and we can move on with our lives.

Re:Problems with slashdot...is it just me? (1)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621659)

Maybe you have your comment threshold set too high? If you browse at +2, that might explain it. I browse at -1, and see everything (for better or worse).

Swimmer gender issues (5, Funny)

spineboy (22918) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621697)

I dunno - if you've seen some of the female swimmers, then it's not hard to make that mistake.

Re:Swimmer gender issues (2)

Abreu (173023) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622761)

Exactly, you need only look at their muscles and hear their voices and you'll come to the conclusion that they are inyecting them with something, even if they pass the doping tests.

Same with this american guy Phelps... He is either on some new drug or he's a bloody mutant! Gold medals and olympic records falling like flies!

Re:Problems with slashdot...is it just me? (0, Redundant)

rehtonAesoohC (954490) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621725)

Maybe your threshold is set too low?

Re:Problems with slashdot...is it just me? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24622097)

No, it's not just you.

The original slashdot page layout and comment threading system was junk. It was obviously "designed" at 3:00 in the morning after a mushroom and hash party in Taco's dorm room. They would fix it, but nobody at slashdot understands how it works.

The recent v2.0 slashdot page layout and comment threading system is also junk. It was obviously "designed" at 3:00 in the afternoon after a martini and coke lunch at an expensive steak house. They would fix it, but nobody at slashdot understands that it sucks.

Re:Problems with slashdot...is it just me? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24622699)

Allow me to introduce you to the "Parent" button. It's what I use in order to bring up the post that someone replied to.

Re:Sexism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24621717)

It's especially difficult to fault them when you're talking about female Olympic swimmers.

Have you seen those women?

Re:Sexism (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24622001)

As an RPI graduate, I can ASSURE you this researcher has never seen a woman before, either.

Re:Sexism (2, Funny)

halsver (885120) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621559)

I'm allergic to /. memes you insensitive, cliche clod!

*AHH-CHOO*

Re:Sexism (5, Insightful)

rehtonAesoohC (954490) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621721)

What you've referred to is called a misplaced modifier, and it occurs when the wrong noun or pronoun is referred to as the precursor to a verb.

For instance, note the following sentence: "I walked down the street, saw a boy and a bike, and he was walking quickly." In this example, the sentence attempts to reference the boy, but actually references the bike. The original statement is grammatically correct.

I'm an English teacher you insensitive clod!

Re:Sexism (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24622041)

I'll ambiguously define your antecedent!

Re:Sexism (3, Funny)

tenco (773732) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622305)

English bikes are male?

Re:Sexism (1, Funny)

guaigean (867316) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622551)

In Spain they certainly aren't.

Re:Sexism (1)

ozbird (127571) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622685)

How do you sex a bike?

Re:Sexism (3, Informative)

camperdave (969942) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622795)

How do you sex a bike?

By examining the top bar of the frame. A top bar that is horizontal from steering stem to the top of the seat tube is the opposite sex from one where the top bar slants downward from steering stem to about half way up the seat tube.

I knew female athletes had bulging muscles,but ... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24621817)

When American Swimmer Margaret Hoelzer goes for the gold tonight in the 200-meter backstroke..."
"...to study how fast and hard a swimmer pushes the water as he moves through it.

I caught that too, and wondered if they had just inadvertently disclosed a cheating scandal at the Olympics.

The secret science is wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24621435)

The other swimmers already explained it... Michael Phelps actually invented a time machine, and he's traveled back to our time to win races at the normal speed of people from his time.

Re:The secret science is wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24621477)

Actually, I heard that instead of balls he has a three bladed propeller that he whips out once he's underwater.

Re:The secret science is wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24621555)

Actually, I heard that instead of balls he has a three bladed propeller that he whips out once he's underwater.

On what is the propeller mounted?

Re:The secret science is wrong (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24621677)

On a shaft, naturally.

Re:The secret science is wrong (1)

geeper (883542) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621603)

I think you mean "time masheen"

Re:The secret science is wrong (3, Funny)

RDW (41497) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621765)

According to the BBC, Phelps's armoury of secret weapons includes ... Hot Grits! (no, really):

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/7562840.stm [bbc.co.uk]

Oh, and eggs. Lots of eggs. But don't try this at home:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2008/aug/15/foodanddrink.michaelphelps [guardian.co.uk]

Re:The secret science is wrong (5, Interesting)

icegreentea (974342) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621891)

And his body. He's like a dolphin. His proportions are perfect for swimming. And then he's double jointed in his ankles, elbows, shoulders AND chest. His armspan is 10cm greater than his height. All he needs now are gills.

Re:The secret science is wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24622553)

The chest has a joint?

Re:The secret science is wrong (1)

Abreu (173023) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622771)

I knew it! He's a mutant!

Re:The secret science is wrong (1)

nokiator (781573) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622773)

[...] All he needs now are gills.

And teflon skin...

Re:The secret science is wrong (1)

DeadDecoy (877617) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621965)

That and he has incredibly large lungs that were acquired from being trained like a thoroughbred [iht.com] . Though I find the most amusing part of this post is that it has switched away from the main topic of Margaret Hoelzer. :)

Will be using science... (1)

Recovering Hater (833107) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621465)

and the science of drugs. I kid, I kid.

And The Science Consists of (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24621473)

Steriods.

P.S. Impeach John McCain before he becomes U.S. Dictator to replace Bush

Re:And The Science Consists of (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24622217)

1. Congratulations! You have dropped below the Mendoza Line of trolldom. Stupid, wrong-headed, and inflammatory - your idiotic little post has it all. You are the compleat moron and should have your vestigial little proto-testicles ripped from your scrotum with rusty pliers to prevent you from ever polluting the gene pool.

2. You can't impeach non-Presidents.

The secret weapon is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24621509)

The science of drugs.

You can read: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,571891,00.html

If you read german, you might want to read an interview with Angel Heredia, the drugdealer of american athletes (well, not only the americans')

http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/0,1518,571031,00.html

Re:The secret weapon is (2, Informative)

Tx (96709) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621735)

I struggled with the Google translation of that article, here [timesonline.co.uk] is an article on the same guy that covers the same ground for English speakers.

Changing is easier said then done. (5, Interesting)

BitterOldGUy (1330491) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621545)

Swim coach Sean Hutchison, who put two athletes on the Olympic swim team, says that he used Wei's insights as the basis for every technical change he made with swimmers leading up to the Olympic trials and games this year.

After doing something for years and years, changing the way you do something, whether it's a swimming stroke or tennis or golf swing, isn't done instantly. It takes quite a bit of concerted effort and attention to change it. I'd be really interested in how and what the coach does to get the swimmers to change.

I've witnessed swimmers in college that have bad habits that they gained as youth and they can't seam to shake them.

Re:Changing is easier said then done. (1)

jaymzter (452402) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621705)

Football (American) coaches at the University of Florida did something similar last year. Working with the university's Biomechanics and Motion Analysis Laboratory to analyze quarterback Tim Tebow's throwing motion. After adjustments were made to his throwing motion based on that work, he went on to be the first sophomore Heisman award winner, given to the nation's top/favorite/hyped player.

Re:Changing is easier said then done. (1)

BitterOldGUy (1330491) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621837)

How many drills, videos, or coach's critiques did it take him throw without thinking? If he's in a game and has to think about throwing, he would have blown it. I was like that in my tennis days. If I though about my stroke, the ball went wild - I thought too much.

Re:Changing is easier said then done. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24622023)

If you've met Tebow...you'd understand that thinking isn't really a problem. And this is coming from a fan, not a hater.

Re:Changing is easier said then done. (5, Interesting)

Crispy Critters (226798) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621737)

That depends. I remember reading about Natalie Coughlin four years ago, and one of the coaches was describing how Natalie could take a suggestion and instantly integrate it into her swim style, even in a competition. I believe that ability was seen as unique.

It is plausible that adaptability is one trait that helped the Olympic swimmers become Olympic swimmers in the first place. Certainly it would be interesting to hear more about it.

Re:Changing is easier said then done. (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621839)

This is essentially what I was thinking when I read the parent comment, but you stated it better than I would have.

Re:Changing is easier said then done. (4, Interesting)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622181)

I have to wonder if Olympic swimmers know their sport so well, as to be able to be consciously aware of all the tiny little adjustments that help make the difference. I know that the more cycling I do the more aware I am of my pedal cadence and how smooth (or not) my pedal stroke is. An Olympics swimmer spends so much time thinking about their swimming I should hope that they can consciously add finesse where novices like me have trouble not swallowing pool water every fourth stroke.

Re:Changing is easier said then done. (5, Insightful)

ckthorp (1255134) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621775)

Have you watched the Olympic athletes who have competed in Dancing with the Stars? When it comes to taking direction and altering their physical performance in a short period of time, they're absolutely awe-inspiring. If you're an Olympic athlete, you better be able to quickly make major changes based on either computerized or human coaching instructions. It's like watching a professional actor rapidly portray a half dozen different personae.

Maybe they're just more adaptive (2, Interesting)

jesterzog (189797) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622209)

After doing something for years and years, changing the way you do something, whether it's a swimming stroke or tennis or golf swing, isn't done instantly. It takes quite a bit of concerted effort and attention to change it. I'd be really interested in how and what the coach does to get the swimmers to change.

Perhaps there's a coaching aspect to it but I think if someone stays at the top of their field for a long time, it says a lot about that person's abilities. I wonder if it's simply that the best swimmers or the best golfers or the best athletes do change, and are simply very good at shaking old habits and adapting to improved techniques when they become apparent. If they don't, they're not the best any more, and are often quickly forgotten as someone else comes through and pushes them out of the way.

Re:Maybe they're just more adaptive (4, Interesting)

dbcad7 (771464) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622485)

Pro golfers often take lessons almost as if they were beginners.. It's easy for a golfer to develop bad habits and relearning the proper techniques is what makes them good.. Most amateur golfers perhaps take lessons when first learning the game, and that's it.. If you learned the game, and played every day without any further instruction you would play fairly well, but if you retake lessons occasionally and play every day you will get so much better.

Interpretation? (2, Interesting)

Duncan Blackthorne (1095849) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621551)

So if I'm reading this correctly, they essentially created a measuring system for how much power a swimmer is generating in the water, serving the equivalent purpose of the power meter [wikipedia.org] that is commonly used by cyclists?

Re:Interpretation? (5, Informative)

BitterOldGUy (1330491) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621657)

Hydrodynamics comes into also. So it's not just power but also how well they move through the water. Efficiency.

I have much more power than any of the girls, well most of them, on the US Team, but in the water, they'll blow my doors off because of better technique - the ability to apply their power in the water. That's the best I can do. It's been a while since I read my swim coaching stuff.

Re:Interpretation? (0)

davester666 (731373) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621953)

It's not technique! It's the webbing between their fingers that is grafted on that makes all the difference.

So what's next? (1)

anomnomnomymous (1321267) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621563)

So besides the swimwear, we're also manipulating the playing ground now?

We might as well freeze the swimming pool, give the swimmers some iceskates and let them set an even higher record!

Re:So what's next? (1)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621611)

So besides the swimwear, we're also manipulating the playing ground now?

Nope, we manipulate the training ground, to better coach the athletes. Akin to using image recognition and tapes to aid in, say, prepping for a football game. Only the automation works much better.

Re:So what's next? (1)

avandesande (143899) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622195)

I know your kidding around, but it gives the swimmers in the middle an advantage over the ones on sides if they have to deal with turbulance.
Really the empty side lanes were added in the spirit of fairness.

It's not just technique (5, Informative)

Solandri (704621) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621567)

It's not just better technique and the new suit. The pool is also designed to reduce waves [npr.org] to help lower times. A lot of the wave dissipation features described in the article have been used in tow tanks (where we tow model ships to measure their drag) for decades.

Re:It's not just technique (4, Insightful)

Anpheus (908711) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621815)

Don't buy into journalists and others grasping at straws here. They couldn't find anything different about the pool, so they start reaching for things that would be obvious to anyone who watched swimming four years ago or has ever seen a swimming event. Extra lanes? Common. Wave-dissipating buoy lines? Common. Extra depth? Eh, not so much, but I know my school's pool is more than 2 meters in depth and it's considered OK.

I think what you're seeing is natural, both the sportsmen and women are better than ever, and the swimsuits are better than ever. Result: world records falling left and right.

I'd like to see the NBC and other groups congratulate Phelps rather than talk about fluff stories like how it's such a fast pool. If it's so fast, and it's not that Phelps is simply the fastest swimmer, then, well, all the other swimmers should be racing for first rather than second.

Re:It's not just technique (4, Interesting)

garcia (6573) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621971)

Everyone has known about this for years and I'm not quite sure why it's suddenly news now. There are plenty of pools out there that have 10+ lanes (in college we had 10+ lanes and we swam in the deep end of the pool for SCY races). It really seems like most of the discussions about the reasons for the WRs falling are more or less just to fill the time that the announcers have between events.

I realize that the general public doesn't understand how pools, suits, and training methods have evolved over the last 15 years but it's seriously not news worthy IMO. US Swimming is just trying to get people to pay attention to how cool swimming is so that they get the most out of the "Olympic Cycle". The "Olympic Cycle" is the phenomenon that occurs following every Olympic year where swim teams see a upswing in the number of youngsters trying out for swim teams because of all the coverage ("ohh, Mommy, I want to be Michael Phelps/Natalie Coughlin/Hall Jr/Krazelburg/Dolan/etc too!")

Another flash in the pan caused by mass media dumbing everything down to a mostly unaware public. Move along.

Re:It's not just technique (2, Informative)

codemachine (245871) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622391)

Yeah, the 10 lane thing isn't new, but this is the first Olympics in a 3m deep pool. The depth would definitely help reduce turbulence.

Re:It's not just technique (1)

MtViewGuy (197597) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622815)

There was also one change that lowered times: nobody races in the lanes next to the pool walls. As such, this means lower turbulence in water for all those swimmers in the other lanes, resulting in much faster performances.

Related research on the dolphin kick Phelps uses (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24621587)

In this Washington Post article [washingtonpost.com]

Re:Related research on the dolphin kick Phelps use (2, Interesting)

gslavik (1015381) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621781)

swimming backstroke in high school, I always noticed that my underwater dolphin was faster than my on surface backstroke ...

I could go longer and faster underwater in backstroke than a team mate who would literally wipe the floor with me in backstroke, because his surface speed was much faster.

That and the coach would tell us "do butterfly kick underwater near the surface until you feel that you are slowing down, then come up and do crawl." when training for the front crawl (freestyle) events.

I've also seen Lenny Krayzelburg swim underwater in a 25 yard pool. The lung capacity on the olympic swimmers is something extraordinary.

Re:Related research on the dolphin kick Phelps use (5, Interesting)

hkgroove (791170) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622017)

That's why you can only dolphin kick for 15 meters now.

In 25 yard pools during backstroke it was easier to dolphin kick and swim 8 yards with the last 2 dedicated to the turn.

As for swimming underwater: Most sprinters in the 50m freestyle don't take a breath during the race. In short course (25m pool) 50m races I maybe took one breath on the way back - depends how much air I released during my turn. If I swam at the right speed I could get about 75m before needing to come up and take another breath. But this was far from racing speed.

Olympic research (1)

Strange Ranger (454494) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621639)

The new shark skin suit is pretty impressive too...
http://www.nhm.ac.uk/about-us/news/2008/august/news_15012.html

Now all we need is an Olympic event that uses internal combustion engines and we'd be set. :)

Re:Olympic research (4, Funny)

Born2bwire (977760) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621743)

I think you mean lasers.

oh please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24621663)

oh please, are you implying she will win becuase they traced bubbles over her.

Hmm... I have a correction to the title (5, Funny)

rehtonAesoohC (954490) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621665)

The US Swim Team's Secret Weapon: Michael Phelps.

Though that's not very secret. Sort of like Victoria's.

Re:Hmm... I have a correction to the title (5, Funny)

Xoltri (1052470) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621849)

OK we get it, he's good at swimming. Does there really need to be so many swimming events? Why don't they have 10 different softball events? You could have ones where everyone gets one arm tied behind their backs. Or one where they all have to run backwards. Another where they hop around the field with potato sacs on their legs. Or have a runner at each base and they have to do it relay style. It doesn't make any sense!

It's event pollution. See: http://www.realmansolympics.com/ [realmansolympics.com]

Re:Hmm... I have a correction to the title (0, Troll)

hondo77 (324058) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621955)

You'd have to leave your parents' basement for it to make sense.

Re:Hmm... I have a correction to the title (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622383)

See: http://www.realmansolympics.com/ [realmansolympics.com] [realmansolympics.com]

The author of that website doesn't know what he's talking about. Cycling is one of the toughest sports out there, lycra or no lycra. It's very much a sport for real men.

Re:Hmm... I have a correction to the title (1)

pcolaman (1208838) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622759)

Real Mans Olympics, aka, Olympics to prop up the countries that suck at sports.

Ha!! (3, Funny)

IcyHando'Death (239387) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621759)

Screw science. Their weapon is Intelligent Design!

Re:Ha!! (1)

Brad1138 (590148) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622785)

Intelligent Design

I would like to point out that People who understand the real meaning of the Universe are very good swimmers as they are commonly swimming away from Pirates.

Re:Ha!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24622917)

So Intelligent Deesihn is just another name for chemistry?!

It's not just American athletes that are faster (4, Interesting)

iamghetto (450099) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621825)

Everyone is faster in the pool. I watched a race where even the 5th place finisher came in above the old world record time.

Just read this: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/12/sports/olympics/12records.html?_r=1&oref=slogin [nytimes.com]

Over above whatever the swimmers are using, the pool itself is engineered to create faster times. Everything from the lane dividers, to the wall of the pool, to the extra meter of depth are meant to dissipate turbulence in the water and increase times.

Re:It's not just American athletes that are faster (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24622175)

i'm starting to hear reports, admittedly unconfirmed, that several in the USA team have been found consuming DHMO [dhmo.org] prior to competing - this substance is well known for temporarily improving athletic performance, though admittedly is difficult to detect using the current dope-tests.
i wouldn't be surprised if this scandal hits the papers over the next few days.

Re:It's not just American athletes that are faster (3, Funny)

ksd1337 (1029386) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622905)

Worse yet, DMHO can be found in the pool itself! This is an outrage.

There's nothing that special about the pool (5, Insightful)

snowwrestler (896305) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622187)

It is engineered to reduce turbulence but no more than other top-level pools around the world. Pools with 10 lanes, slop gutters to eat waves, and greater then 2m depth are not unheard of. Besides, while plenty of world records are being beaten at these Olympics, plenty were also beaten before the Olympics...in the last year or two many world records have gone down at other events. Before each race NBC puts up a listing of the current world record for that event. Take a look--many are dated 2006 or 2007; some date back a few more years, but none are very old.

We happen to be in a period of dramatic change in swimming right now, and there are probably a number of reasons. If you want to point to just one, it is probably that there is a lot more money in the sport now. So Michael Phelps could afford, through endorsements and grants, to train at a full-time professional level since he was an early teen. This has huge implications for his technique, fitness, health, and mental toughness for competition.

Re:It's not just American athletes that are faster (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24622301)

Actually, it's mostly due to the swimsuits they're wearing. All of the winners are wearing special suits that decrease drag as much as possible and also have rigid areas that reinforce the swimmer's form so that it doesn't degrade as the swimmer tires.

Yeah, the spirit of the games is pretty much gone.

Re:It's not just American athletes that are faster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24622417)

Umm, don't you mean decrease times?

Re:It's not just American athletes that are faster (1)

MtViewGuy (197597) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622889)

Essentially, we're borrowing a lot of formerly classified research into lowering the resistance of things moving through water (the basic physics involved came from research done to make ships go faster and to reduce the resistance of a submarine running underwater; I'm almost guessing that they borrowed the research done by the revolutionary USS Albacore, a submarine that resulted in a quantum leap forward in underwater speed).

Chinese Quality control (4, Funny)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622907)

Everyone is faster in the pool.

Yes, they probably didn't level it right and they are all getting a downhill advantage.

China is using science too (3, Interesting)

clragon (923326) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621851)

I went to China for a visit this summer and there was this interesting Chinese Olympic history series playing on the TV.

Apparently after the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, the Chinese considered it to be a disappointing showing because many Chinese favorites did not get a Gold medal. So the Chinese government got some experts together and they came up with a new plan for how the athletes are trained in China. They first listed several sports the Chinese were good at traditionally, like table tennis, badminton, gymnastics, etc. They then established two research facilities for each sport. The purpose of these research facilities were to find more effective methods to train an athlete.

For example, the rowing team was sent to go train in Tibet because there it is at a high altitude. At high altitudes there is less oxygen so it trains the athletes' body to use oxygen more effectively.

While us nerds can't exactly participate in sports competitively we definitely have the skills to improve training and playing methods of a sport =D

Re:China is using science too (4, Informative)

garcia (6573) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622043)

For example, the rowing team was sent to go train in Tibet because there it is at a high altitude. At high altitudes there is less oxygen so it trains the athletes' body to use oxygen more effectively.

Yet another item that's been known forever. That's nothing more than fluff. US Swimming's Olympic Training Center for swimming is located isn't located in Colorado Springs because it's an exciting town you know. I swam there for a few days before HS Nationals in 1997 before the meet which took place at the Air Force Academy. They were trying to get us prepped for swimming at altitude because, as the words placed in tiles on the wall said something like, "7,258 feet -- the air is rare"

I learned many of the underwater techniques used by the current greats which were developed while I was at the peak of my performance in HS. It wasn't Michael Phelps or this new scientist suddenly creating the underwater dolphin work you see now. In the mid 1990s (into the late 1990s when it was limited to 15m) you could go as far as you wanted underwater for every event (backstroke fell first to 15m and then the rest soon followed). Misty Hyman was one of the pioneers along with Denis Pankratov and they turned on their sides (much like Coughlin still does) to take the best advantage of the swirls of water that are created as you move through it.

As I posted above, this is all not new technology and it's not worth even talking about now 10-15 years after it was developed.

Re:China is using science too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24622153)

swimmers and athletes train in colorado for the same reason... but it's not training your body to use oxygen more effectively- you're actually getting more red blood cells at altitude. your body says- gee we're running a bit low on oxygen here, need to carry more.

Re:China is using science too (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24622249)

For example, the rowing team was sent to go train in Tibet because there it is at a high altitude. At high altitudes there is less oxygen so it trains the athletes' body to use oxygen more effectively.

So THAT'S WHY CHINA invaded Tibet and refuses to leave!

Re:China is using science too (1)

Jherek Carnelian (831679) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622473)

While us nerds can't exactly participate in sports competitively we definitely have the skills to improve training and playing methods of a sport =D

Or misread the results in order to come up with new and creative ways to get back those jocks from high school.

"Yeah, the computer says that you will improve your times if you learn to breath better - practice saying "eye am ay jackass/"

This just in (1)

nih (411096) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621893)

Science makes stuff better

news at 11

science? (4, Funny)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 6 years ago | (#24621949)

I thought our *three* weapons were fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency...and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.... Our *four*...no... *Amongst* our weapons.... Amongst our weaponry...are such elements as fear, surprise.... I'll post again.

Let me get this right... (2, Insightful)

aztektum (170569) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622087)

By doping, which is "bad", the athlete is increasing his ability to overcome the environment.

By using technology we're mitigating the effects of the environment on their performance. That's good?

The spirit of the Olympics is long gone.

Re:Let me get this right... (1)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622197)

Doping = Dangerously modifying YOURSELF to beat everyone else. This rapidly becomes an arms race which only leads to dead athletes and wasted potential.

Finding better ways of doing things to beat everyone else by applying thought isn't the same.

Nor are all 'better ways' allowed. I've yet to see someone use a jet ski or a powered scuba sled in any of these contests.

Their secret weapon: science! (1)

Kingrames (858416) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622117)

And they used that secret weapon to blind all the opposition.

the simplest answer is the right answer (1)

heroine (1220) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622125)

New steroids & injection methods which can pass the drug tests are the biggest factor. Everything else is gravy. You think Natalie Coughlin looks like a colliflower by pushing around bubbles all day?

Re:the simplest answer is the right answer (2, Insightful)

chunk08 (1229574) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622319)

Go climb into a pool yourself and swim a few. And don't ask me to haul you out when you're drowning and can't make it to the side. Swimming is one of the most demanding sports there is. Besides, they do other things, like lift weights and sprint on dry land.

Lets hope that republicans do not hear this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24622171)

They will destroy the science and force everybody to declare that god is on our side, so we do not have to do anything.
Of course, if you are not American, I am sure that you hope for it.

Is this for sale? (3, Interesting)

rumblin'rabbit (711865) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622267)

And how much would this technology cost in Canadian dollars?

Cause we're in the market [beijing2008.cn] right now.

Or you could just be a hairy Mark Spitz (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24622289)

And win 8 medals in a row because you are the only guy who refuses to shave and have a different swimming style.

Faster lap times due to ... (5, Funny)

PPH (736903) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622461)

...being chased. By sharks. With lasers.

The high diving competitions are the result of releasing the shark and playing the video of the swimmer leaping out of the pool backwards.

Slow news day? (1)

Cyko_01 (1092499) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622513)

wow, you know it's a slow news day when you see an article about sports (swimming of all things!) on the front page of slashdot :p

Further information (1)

jebuonag (733199) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622577)

I recently saw a similar article in ANSYS Advantage, an industry publication on FEA and CFD. It's geared towards their FLUENT platform and the Speedo brand, but there's still a decent amount of technical detail aside from the marketing language. PDF is here: http://www.ansys.com/magazine/issues/06-12-2008-ansys-advantage/01-sports.pdf [ansys.com]

Obligatory Offtopic Pride (1)

ibanezist00 (1306467) | more than 6 years ago | (#24622827)

Sorry, but I figured I'd show pride for my school. Student of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute right here :-)

I can tell you guys from personal knowledge that this research is pretty damn cool.
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