Swimming like a shark

Split seconds. For top level athletes it can mean the difference between success and the gutter. Harsh isn’t it? But that’s the blatant reality of the game. And with stakes so high, athletes these days can’t just rely on training, focus etc to bring home the bacon. They need more. And that’s when scientists start raising their voices.

The latest in Olympic swimwear takes its lead from the skin of a shark. Why? Well for those that aren’t always glued to the Discovery Channel, a shark’s skin is covered with tiny teeth to smooth the flow of water and reduce turbulence. Speedo, the company in question, drafted in fish experts from the Natural History Museum to give their mad scientist creation that little extra kick. It was all or nothing for these guys. And it seemed to do the trick.

The latest Speedo Fastkin LZR racer suit was used to break the 200m world record within weeks of its launch. This skin doesn’t mess about. And since launching, several other companies jumped on the shark skin bandwagon.

Get more about this here.

OK let’s go from water to ice.

When riding a snowboard science says you’re actually skating on a thin layer of liquid that’s been melted by the force of your board. But ice can be sticky as well as slippery. Just think tongue connected to an ice lolly. Admit it, you’ve been on the receiving end too.

The Russian physicist, Victor Petrenko studied this and then used the principle to develop brakes for skis and boards. You heard right, brakes for skis and boards. By firing a tiny electrical pulse under the board or ski’s surface, Petrenko found that ice can be melted then re-frozen. New ice crystals would then snatch hold of the board as they form to give the sensation of sliding on concrete. And that’s how you brake on ice people.

Look here for more information.

So where to next with this technology. De-icing windscreens? Stopping car tyres sliding? Keeping ice off aeroplane wings?

We’re sure the next scientist on the block will tell us soon enough.

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