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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
 Melissa Hollingsworth-Richards, bronze-medal winner at the 2006 Winter Olympics, tests her winning technique in the NRC wind tunnel.

Getting into position

In 2006, Canada's skeleton team reached the podium three times during the Torino Olympic Games. In preparation for the Games, team members used NRC’s 2m x 3m wind tunnel to assess the aerodynamics of their equipment — including the sled, helmet and suit — and their body positioning. For testing, the skeleton sled was placed on a specialized scale, called a force balance, which can measure tiny differences in drag, lift and side force. Once they were lying on the sled with the wind tunnel roaring, athletes could then alter individual aspects of equipment or positioning and immediately see the aerodynamic impact. Drag results were projected on the floor in front of the athletes so they could see, for example, the effect of rounding their shoulders, or opening or closing their legs.

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