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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
Alpine skiing races are now timed using infrared beams.

Laser versus infrared

In the Winter Olympics, indoor speed skating competitions rely on laser beam timing. However, outdoor events such as luge and bobsledding use an infrared beam to record start and finish times. Why the difference? Laser beams are narrower and more precise than infrared beams. They’re ideal for controlled indoor environments, but in weather-prone outdoor venues, they’re more vulnerable to “false-tripping” from falling snow or flying ice chips. So in the great and unpredictable outdoors, infrared beams are often a safer bet.

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