I found this article perfect for Friday Science considering that the 2006 Olympic Winter Games start tonight. The US Olympic team has their very own physicist. Michael Holden is an aerospace engineer and head of the Calspan-Universtiy at Buffalo Research Center, one of the top hypervelocity-testing facilities in the world. He started helping out the USA team in the 80s when a team official asked Holden if he knew where they could find a wind tunnel. Holden had a wind tunnel that he had used in previous research. He outfitted it with cameras and modified the floor so he could measure drag on athletes. He applies his aerodynamic research to speed skiers to show them how one careless move could add 20 pounds of resistance, but it’s just not about how the skiers move, but also what they wear. An ill-fitting suit or helmet can add 10 pounds of resistance to a skier.
Holden has applied his physics skills to other winter sports like the luge, speed skating, and skeleton sledding. He built a mechanized apparatus of pulleys and torsion bars that allow read-outs to be taken on jumpers suspended from the roof and contributed to seven US gold metals.
It’s very much like that movie the Ice Princess, where Michelle Trachtenberg uses physics to improve her double axel.