The Vancouver Winter Olympic Games have been a delight despite the weather. And if you think Vancouver was warm at 10C on the last days of the Games, the next venue, Sochi Russia, is currently 13-15C with heavy rains forecast for 2 of the next 3 days. But one thing that has been constant has been the high level of competition as higher, stronger, faster has been on display in every event. And as performances improve, the science behind them get more sophisticated. Canada’s Own the Podium program used several studies on the physics of the games events to help give their teams and competitors an advantage.
So a perusal of the various websites covering the games found a cornucopia of great science articles available covering the Games and some of the popular events. Anybody interested in finding out how and why and maybe some of the physics and science behind an event has a wealth of articles to choose from. Here is our ranking of the top five Winter Olympic How To articles.
5th Place – Google Earth 3D Map of the Games
Use of Google Earth and its special viewing files of the Olympic venues requires a free download of the Google Earth program if users don’t already have it downloaded. But Google Earth [and Google Mars for that matter] are well worth the while because they give wonderful views of places and cities throughout the World. And Google has pulled out the stops for a great look see at Vancouver and the great BC countryside.
4th Place – HowStuffWorks How the Luge Works
HowStuffWorks is a website devoted to explaining how things work with pictures and explanations. This coverage of the Luge Event is typically thorough [although the map of the Whistler Luge Track is strangely missing given that maps of thee Torino 2006 and Salt Lake City 2002 tracks are shown]. After reading this article I have a much better feel for the equipment, speed and danger of luge racing.
3rd Place Bronze – NBC/NSF Science of the Winter Olympics
The NSF-National Science Foundation worked with NBC to put out a 16 part series of videos describing the science of some of the more popular Olympic events. What is novel is that they look not just at the physics but also the biochemistry and fluid dynamics that turn out to be crucial for the many different sports. These are wonderful learning exercises that I wish I would have had for my Science classes in grade or junior high school. Not only are they very instructive but also they are very motivational. Imagine seeing a sport up close and then getting the basic science behind the event. What a motivator for understanding and/or participation. The illustration at times is uneven, but the overall quality is high.
2nd Place Silver – NYTimes Tie – Inside the Action and Interactive Action
The New York Times has set a standard for coverage of the Games that just blows away the competition for savvy use of graphics, video and blogs. They are consistently a level above the sports media – using video window in video, graphics, direct illustration on video and competitor own dubbed commentary to add great insights into the intricacies of the sports. I looked at a number of sites including TheSTar, GlobeandMail, ESPN, CTVOlympics, NBCOlympics, BBC/Sports, LeMonde/Sports, LATimes, DerSpeigel, among others – and none offered the range of sports or the insights of the written and video coverage that could match the NYTimes.
1st Place Gold – NYTimes – Fractions of a Second: An Olympic Musical
Edward Tufte who is to communication graphics as Josef Albers is to Color Theory or J.K.Rowling is to childhood fiction – I suspect Tufte would give his seal approval to this musical graphic that shows in sing song tunes how close the finishes were in a number of the Olympic events [you must visit the site for the benefit of audio playback – its better than a blink of the eye]. The musical tones tell the story in sonorous fashion of just how close the finishes were. This is a gold medal triumph of Web media “illustration”.