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ARCHIVED - Photo essay: Science of the Olympics

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  • photo
  • Physics takes to the air
  • Bodies in motion
  • Going for green
  • Speed testing
  • Getting into position
  • Tiny but strong
  • Lightweight protection
  • Low-tech timing
  • Faster than the blink of an eye
  • Laser versus infrared
  • Staying in sync
  • Making heat from ice
  • Protecting Whistler’s waterways
  • Video
Electronic timekeeping tools can resolve time to 1/1000th of a second — roughly 300 times faster than this eye can blink.

Faster than the blink of an eye

In today’s digital era, Olympic timekeepers use a wide range of high-tech devices including photoelectric sensors, high-speed digital cameras, electronic touch pads, radio transmitters, infrared beams and laser beams to record athletes’ performances. While many modern tools can resolve time to three decimal places — 1/1000th of a second or roughly 300 times faster than the blink of an eye — for most Olympic events, the results are not considered meaningful beyond two decimal places.

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