Ski jumping: how physics helps athletes soar in the air

(ORDO NEWS) — Ski jumping is perhaps one of the most intriguing events of the Winter Olympics, showing physics in action. The winner is the athlete who can fly the farthest of all rivals and land beautifully.

To perform well at the Olympics and show the perfect ski jump, athletes must know physics

Professionals in ski jumping literally know how to fly. Sliding down at high speed, athletes soar in the air for several seconds, covering a distance equal to the length of a football field or even more. How do they do it?

How Athletes Use Physical Laws

There are three physical phenomena involved in ski jumping: gravity, lift, and drag. The force of gravity acts on any object in the air, and athletes cannot influence it in any way. However, they are able to properly interact with the air to create lift equal to gravity in order to float in the air.

To create lift, an object must move. As the skier slides off the ramp, he tries to minimize drag by crouching and carefully managing his movements to reduce friction between the skis and the ramp. By the time of the jump, the athlete can accelerate to a speed of 96 km / h.

After overcoming the springboard and taking off, Newton’s third law comes into force (in simple words – for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction).

The athlete’s body and skis begin to put pressure on air molecules, which respond in kind. It turns out that they lift the flying athlete up – a lifting force is created, and the skier soars in the air.

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In this case, the skier must choose the correct angle of inclination, since the area of ​​\u200b\u200bcontact with the air depends on this.

Therefore, athletes fly almost parallel to the ground and place their skis in a V-shape, which increases surface area and creates an ideal angle for generating good lift.

To better understand how this works, imagine what happens if you stick your hand out of a car window while driving. If you turn your palm edgewise in the direction of motion, then less force will act on the hand, and it will remain in place.

But if you turn your palm perpendicular to the road, then it will immediately be carried back. With a slight turn of the palm, it will slightly rise up – it will soar.

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As for resistance, it helps the jumper to land – it slows down the movement of the athlete, due to which the lifting force is reduced, and the skier smoothly descends.

Popular Mechanics also covered other Olympic sports. This article will tell you about the secrets of freestyle skiers performing amazing tricks in the air, and this one about the physics of the game of curling.


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