“A sport is an organized, competitive, entertaining, and skillful physical activity requiring commitment, strategy, and fair play.â€¦The physical activity involves the movement of people, animals and/or a variety of objects such as balls and machines or equipment.” “Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through space, time, as well as all related concepts, including energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of natureâ€¦”
From the two quotes above, it is clear that both physics and sports cannot be separated from one another. To be successful in sports, athletes need to apply the concepts of physics in the sports they are involved. The applications of physics in sports are not just limited to the equipment or machineries used in motor-related sports like racing cars, but also how people should move parts of their body in motion-related sports like racing or hurdles running. Successful applied physics on sports can dramatically increase athletes’ performance and result in winning. History has proven that new technologies are much better compared to those 10 years aback. Take for example during the Beijing 2008 Olympics, the LZR Racer swimsuit developed by Speedo (also known to the public as the ‘sharkskin swimsuit’) aided swimmers to break almost all the world records, with the swimmer from the United States, Michael Phelps, to break 7 world records out of the 8 events he joined, eventually forcing the Aquatic International Federation of the International Olympic Committee (FINA) to ban the use of the LZR Racer swimsuit in any international events.
The oldest sports will be those in the running category. Since the ancient age, people have been racing against each other to determine who the stronger one is. However, no physics theory is applied because people at that time will just run with all their might to win his opponent. Nevertheless, in this modern world, running athletes are specially trained to push their speed to the max by applying physics into their running styles. Besides proper nutrition and training, athletes also need to know how to run on the field. Should he run straight, or incline his body to reduce air friction? How much should he bend so that it won’t affect the center of mass and gravity of his body? How to make his steps raised lower from the ground so that time won’t be wasted? Things get more complicated when it comes to hurdled running : how big should he open his legs in every step so that he won’t run over a hurdle? How high should he jump so that he won’t be too tall to waste his time and too low to run over a hurdle? All of these factors need to be taken into consideration so that maximum speed is ensured during the tournament. Nonetheless, running as a sport is not as easy as seen on TV, but requires a lot of knowledge in physics and timeless training to excel in it.
“Every body continues in a state of rest or in a uniform motion in a straight line, until it is compelled by a force to change its state of rest or motion.” -Newton’s First Law of Motion
“Change of motion is proportional to the force applied, and take place along the straight line the force acts.” -Newton’s Second Law of Motion
Next we shall go to another ancient sport – weight-throwing. Nowadays it is divided into several categories, which includes hammer-throwing, disc-throwing, et cetera. Anyone who tried these sports before should know that how you stand and how you throw will greatly affect the distance travelled by the weight, which directly determine whether you win of vice versa. Those people who do not really know physics will laugh when they see athletes preparing to throw the weight due to their funny pose. Do you know that it is actually those pose that help the athletes to win? The distance you turn your body before throwing out the weight actually increases the acceleration and initial velocity of the ball so that it will travel further before it lands on ground, as noted in Newton’s Second Law. Besides, the angle of throwing the weight will also have a great impact on how far the weight travels – a 45o angle will ensure maximum distance travelled by the weight. Other than weight-throwing, we also have weight-lifting. By years and years of experimenting, computer simulation and also experience, man actually came out with methods that can aid athletes to lift weights that are being “unimaginable” 20 years back. The application of torque, lever and statics together with calculations from the computer helped athlete to apply his strength to the limit to lift up heavy weights, which is why human beings can lift a surprising weight of 260kg!
As mentioned at the beginning of the essay, swimming also requires a lot of application of physics, no matter physically or in terms of usage of equipment. The one who reaches the target the fastest wins the competition. That is why swimmers usually have most of the body out of the surface of the water to reduce friction. On the other hand, the hand and leg strokes of the athletes are designed so that optimal speed can be reached. Some swimmers are born to be good swimmers, for example Michael Phelps, who is born with long hands that will increase his performance during swimming as compared to other swimmers. Also mentioned above was the LZR Racer developed by Speedo. The ‘sharkskin swimsuit’ is a very good example of usage of physics when creating new technology. LZR Racer, as claimed by Speedo, actually increases friction with water by 5%, but on the other hand, it traps a layer of air between the swimmer and the suit so that they can swim faster and swifter in water. Another water sports that uses a lot of physics principles is diving. One of the judges’ schemes is actually based on the amount of sprinkle produced by the diver. By applying physics, one can reduce the sprinkle in order to get higher marks.
Now we come into a sports that has an average of 600 million spectators worldwide every match – car racing, noticeably F1 Car Racing. Car racing had reached such an extent that the car’s quality is more important than the driver. No doubt that the driver must possess skills and a very high endurance in order to win a match, but without a good car a good driver is wasted. Racing cars producers like Ferrari, McLaren, and Mercedes pour in millions of cash into car developing. From the shell, engine, until the steering, every inch of the car requires research and precise working on it. The shell or the casing of the car uses aerodynamic design so that it won’t flip over easily under the high speed of the car, and also ensures minimum air friction. In most case the casing is made from carbon composites so that it is lighter. While for the engine, technology has actually modified the whole engine into a power monster, providing the car with enormous power. The other major factor controlling the speed of the cars is the design of the tires. Different types of tires come in handy in different situation, such as weather, situation of the track and speed required, which is why a good quality tire manufacturer is crucial in a racing car team.
Table tennis, also known as ping-pong in some countries, is also a kind of sport favorable by physics. When you see a table tennis tournament, it is always common to see athletes spinning their bat up, down, or some even sideways when serving the ball. It is not the pose they are wishing for, it’s the spin of the ball. With the spin of the ball, the opponent will find it much harder to return the serve, sometimes the ball may even fling outside! Physics explain this as a natural phenomenon, because when one hits a spinning ball with the normal way, the ball will still move according to the spinning direction, resulting in flinging away of the ball. To counter this technique, one must also ‘spin’ the ball back in the opposite direction to neutralize the ‘spin’, or even add more ‘spin’ for the opponent. Now let’s go badminton. As everyone knows the shuttlecock of the badminton is made so that the tip of the shuttlecock will fall when it is hit. However, the legendary Sidek Brothers from Malaysia actually applied physics and hit the feathers which results in the feather part reaching opponent’s racquet and with this technique they managed to clinch some of the trophies! However, it is now banned from using the technique.
Archery, a very interesting sport in which a lot people are fond of. As easy as it seems, however, it is actually a sport that takes into account of a lot of physics principles. Do you know that the arrow actually does not travel in a straight line? It is for people to do massive calculation and estimate where the arrow will travel in order to get the arrow into the bull’s-eye. This is further enhanced by the wind condition during the tournament. A simple miscalculation will lead to failing to get an accurate shot. While shooting, another aiming-related sport is not affected much by the wind, it is very important for an athlete to know about the Law of Universal Gravitation, as proposed by Sir Isaac Newton, which is a very important physics law. The law states that :
“Every massive particle in the universe attracts every other massive particle with a force which is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.”
According to Newton, the gravity force will pull the bullet down a bit before reaching the target. So an athlete must take into consideration of everything surrounding him – wind, gravity, et cetera before firing the bullet.
Bowling, although not an Olympic recognized sport, is quite famous in certain countries like Malaysia. The bowling ball rolls across the path and then hits the pins, which will produce the results. A ‘strike’ is the best, followed by ‘spare’. However, do you know that bowling actually is a very good example of Newton’s Third Law of Motion itself?
“Whenever a first body exerts a force onto another second body, the second body exerts a force in the opposite direction on the first body.” -Newton’s Third Law of Motion
This actually means that when the ball touches the pins, the pins will exert a similar force back to the ball, causing the ball to slow down and pins to fall in another direction, which is how some bowlers actually managed to make the ball to change direction to hit other pins. Another very interesting sport will be the billiard and snooker. Both sports apply the Law of Conservation of Momentum :
“For a collision occurring between object 1 and object 2 in an isolated system, the total momentum of the two objects before the collision is equal to the total momentum of the two objects after the collision. That is, the momentum lost by object 1 is equal to the momentum gained by object 2.”
So technically, an athlete hits the white ball so that the ball hits another colored ball and causes it to drop into the pocket of the billiard table, giving him points.
Last but not least, I shall talk about the world’s classiest sport – Golf. The physics of a golf swing is deceptively more complicated than one might imagine. At first glance it might appear as simple as swinging a club and hitting the ball. But in fact, there is quite a bit more to it. There is the importance of technique obviously, but there is also some interesting physics that goes into making the ‘perfect’ golf shot. One has to have good swing of the hand and his waist in order to have a very good shot on the field. He also has to take into consideration of all the environmental factors like wind speed, wind direction and also the geographical factors of the field he is playing on. Besides, his wrist must also be tighten and loosen on the correct time to ensure maximum performance. The gold club itself also needs some applications of physics so that it will aid the golfer. New golf clubs are made so that they reduce the contact time with the golf ball so that the impulsive force is at the max and the ball will travel further.
As a conclusion, sports are connected to physics till the end. No sport can be successfully played with physics in it. World records shall be broken over and over with the aid of physics and the technologies nowadays. New sports will also be invented and at that time, physics will come in handy. A normal being can excel in sports with the help of physics!