Olympic Science & Red Bull Stratos | SciByte 56

Olympic Science & Red Bull Stratos | SciByte 56

We take a look at olympic science, an innovative writing technique, morse code, music, an update on the Red Bull Stratos mission, spacecraft update and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

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Show Notes

Olympic Science

Credit: International Olympic Committee for 2012 Summer Olympics

  • Measuring times
  • Time is measured in 1,000th of a second that has to be that close to both actual time and consistent
  • Races are started by electronic starter guns, with starting blocks that indicate when a runner reacts faster than humans can respond, making the runners re-start the race
  • More than 2,000 digital frames a second aid the timing system for the most accurate and precise system possible
  • For longer racing event with a lot of competitors RFID, Radio Frequency Identification, attached to shoes or bicycles allow accurate timing and tracking for each competitor
  • Technology
  • Some Long Jumpers utilize stereoscopic cameras, from BMW, to measure speed and angles of launch
  • Swimmers usitize fluid dynamic measurements so that they can train and compete in the most aerodynamic way as possible to
  • Runners can also use treadmill technology that provides support to minimize the weight of the athlete affecting the legs by creating a pressure bubble that can support part of the athletes weight
  • The Olympic pool utilize a number of different technologies to minimize waves including adjustable depth, gutters along the edges of the pool and lane lines
  • Mechanical engineers analyze top athletes to be able to both help athletes improve their technique and expand knowledge that could help provide information to be used for people with movement disorders, it can also used design more realistic and stronger robotic arms
  • Changing Technology Rules
  • The LZR Racer Suit is a line of extremely high-end swimsuits manufactured by Speedo using a high-technology swimwear fabric composed of woven elastane-nylon and polyurethane.
  • Swimmers wearing the LZR suit at the 2008 Beijing Olympics consisted of : 94% of all swimming races won, 98% of all medals won, and 23 out of the 25 world records broken
  • By 24 August 2009, 93 world records had been broken by swimmers wearing a LZR Racer
  • These results prompted FINA to reevaluate suit policies making the LZR banned for use in competitions
  • Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) is the International Federation (IF) recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for administering international competition in the aquatic sports
  • **Oscar Pistorius
  • South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius is the first double-amputee athlete to compete at the Olympics.
  • Pistorius is competing in the regular olympics using prosthetics Carbon fiber spring-like prosthetics designed for sprinter
  • Although the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) deemed him ineligible for the 2008 Summer Olympics based on the belief that he held an unfair advantage further scientific studies have shown he hold no advantage or able-bodied athletes
  • Safety Equipment
  • Safety headgear in different for each sport it will be used in dependent upon the specific needs for the sport
  • Helmet safety foam comes in both the stiff and flexible to maximize the needed protection and comfort
  • Paralympics
  • Paralympic wheelchairs are specifically designed for each sport. With designs for speed, mobility, toughness, etc.
  • Of Note
  • A google search for “London 2012 _” will show a display of the schedule and results of competition on the right side of the window
  • Video Gallery Science Of The Summer Olympics: Engineering In Sports | Science360
  • Social Media
  • London 2012 @London2012
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • 2012 London Olympics official page
  • Science Of The Summer Olympics: Engineering In Sports | Science360.gov
  • Fina extends swimsuit regulations | news.bbc.co.uk
  • High-Tech Swimsuits: Winning Medals Too | time.com
  • Fast Times: Speedo, Like Michael Phelps, Goes For World Domination in an LZR Suit | The Wall Street Journal: Sports
  • Phelps secures his place in the history books after landing his eighth gold medal! | Speedo.com
  • Best Inventions of 2008 | TIME


Writing with your eyes

Credit: YouTube channel h2so4hurts | Credit: Lorenceau et al., Current Biology

  • The low down
  • People “locked in” by paralyzing disorders have long relied on blinks or facial twitches to build sentences one letter at a time
  • Jean Lorenceau of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris may have a new technology might allow people who have almost completely lost the ability to move their arms or legs to communicate freely
  • Significance
  • Eye-writing technology tricks the neuromuscular machinery into doing something that is usually impossible: to voluntarily produce smooth eye movements in arbitrary directions
  • Smooth pursuit, this eye motion is different from saccadic motion, in which we rapidly shift our eyes to, say, skim lines of text or scan a crowd
  • Smooth movements are normally impossible to control those movements smoothly in any direction
  • Lorenceau found by accident with another experiment that he was able to learn to do so.
  • To determine if other people could learn to do this he designed his own reverse-phi display with 200 disks that switch between black and white and are projected on a gray background.
  • When we see two images that are the photographic negatives (dark to light & light to dark) in rapid succession our brain sees the object in the image moving away from the negative image
  • This gives us the impression of motion when there is none
  • Over three 30-minute sessions, he was able to trained six volunteers
  • For the volunteers, who couldn’t see what they were writing, it was like writing with a pen that had run out of ink
  • Although some participants had a harder time of learning to control their eye movements than others by the end of the sessions most could freely draw legible letters and numbers
  • Of Note
  • This technology might also help to improve eye movement control in people with certain conditions such as dyslexia or ADHD and/or for experts, such as athletes or surgeons, whose activities strongly rely on eye movements
  • Now working on a better version of his eye writer, tests should start next year
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube Writing in Cursive with Your Eyes Only | h2so4hurts
  • YouTube Reverse Phi Motion | porrophagus
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Writing in cursive with your eyes only | MedicalXPress
  • Write to Me Only With Thine Eyes | ScienceMag.org


Morse Code in space

Credit: fit.ac.jp

Musical Variety

  • The low down
  • The Million Song Dataset is a freely-available collection of audio features and metadata for a million contemporary popular music tracks.
  • The songs come from nearly 45,000 artists with only 2,650 songs released between 1955 and 1959 and 177,808 songs released between 2005 and 2009.
  • Quantitative analysis for this study examined three aspects of those songs; timbre, pitch, and loudness of nearly half a million songs
  • Timbre accounts for the sound color, texture, or tone quality
  • Pitch roughly corresponds to the harmonic content of the piece, including its chords, melody, and tonal arrangements
  • Timbral variety peaked in the 1960’s and has been in steady decline to the present day and implies a homogenization of the overall timbral palette, which could point to less diversity in instrumentation and recording techniques
  • While it may be no surprise that music has gotten louder the same notes and chords that were popular in decades past are popular today
  • Musicians today seem to be less adventurous in moving from one chord or note to another, instead following the paths well-trod
  • Of Note
  • The Million Song Dataset, huge as it is, may not provide a representative slice of pop music, especially for old songs
  • The database draws on what’s popular now, as well as what has been digitized and made available for download
  • The older digitised music may not be the same that people enjoyed when those songs first came out.
  • Million Song Dataset

— Updates —

Red Bull Stratos dives again

Red Bull Stratos

— Spacecraft Updates —

Curiosity Rover lands on Sunday … stay tuned next week for more


Looking back

  • August 1, 1774 : 238 years ago : Oxygen : Joseph Priestley, British Presbyterian minister and chemist, identified a gas which he called “dephlogisticated air” – later known as oxygen. Priestley found that mercury heated in air became coated with “red rust of mercury,” which, when heated separately, was converted back to mercury with “air” given off. Studying this “air” given off, he observed that candles burned very brightly in it. Also, a mouse in a sealed vessel with it could breathe it much longer than ordinary air. A strong believer in the phlogiston theory, Priestley considered it to be “air from which the phlogiston had been removed.” Further experiments convinced him that ordinary air is one fifth dephlogisticated air, the rest considered by him to be phlogiston

Looking up this week

Keep an eye out for …

  • Wed | Aug 1 | Full Moon

  • Wed | Aug 1 | Before Dawn | Jupiter will the the

  • Fri | Aug 3 | Evening | The Summer Triangle approaches its greatest height. Face east and look almost straight up after nightfall. The brightest star there is Vega. Toward the northeast from Vega (by two or three fist-widths at arm’s length) is Deneb. Toward the southeast from Vega by a greater distance is Altair.

  • Before Dawn | Jupiter & Venus are in the East they are now about the distance of you pinky finger to your pointer finger stretched out at arm’s length, 14*. Venus is the brighter of the two to the lower left, making Jupiter the higher of the two.

  • Before Dawn | Betelgeuse, the red giant star, is still to the lower right of Venus by about the same distance apart as Jupiter and Venus

  • At Dusk | Mars & Saturn are low in the west-southwest. Saturn is above Spica, by about three finger widths are are nearly the same brightness

  • Further Reading and Resources

  • More on what’s in the sky this week

  • Sky&Telescope

  • SpaceWeather.com

  • StarDate.org

  • For the Southern hemisphere: SpaceInfo.com.au

  • Constellations of the Southern Hemisphere : astronomyonline.org

  • Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand : rasnz.org.nz

  • AstronomyNow

  • HeavensAbove

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