Physics of Olympic Bodies

As the Olympic frenzy draws to a close, it is time to analyze the events, the records, and the athletes themselves. This infographic compares Olympians both past and present, and shares how the changes in their physical anatomy has allowed for records to be broken. Unfortunately, the benefits that they have include things like longer than average legs, and mostly an overall height advantage, as compared to their predecessors. They are things that we can only hope to develop at age 13, but cannot change once we are adults.

Where speed is desired, being tall and slim are advantageous. Where strength is desired, being tall and large are advantageous. Challenge your students to come up with other areas where these strengths are developed. For instance, sports cars are often long and slim. Meanwhile, machinery used for lifting heavy items are often larger all around.

Use experiments to figure out why certain attributes are advantageous. Use water projectiles to figure out why being lean is advantageous. In a tub of water, it is easier to see a large object being stopped and slowed down by the water. On the other hand, use legos to hold a certain mass. Build a tall slim, and a short fat object and place similar objects on both. Which one can hold it? Why?


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