Mathematicians Say Usain Bolt Could Easily Run Even Faster
Posted on April 6, 2012Usain Bolt, a Jamaican sprinter, is the fastest human on Earth. He has the world records for the fastest 100 meters (9.58 seconds) and 200 meters (19.19 seconds).
According to a study published in Significance, the magazine of the Royal Statistical Society and the American Statistical Association, Usain Bolt can achieve even faster running times with no extra effort on his part or improvement to his fitness. Cambridge Professor of Mathematical Sciences John D. Barrow illustrates how, based on mathematical evidence, Bolt can cut his world record from 9.58 seconds to 9.45. The Significance study highlights three factors that would improve Bolt's performance by a combined improvement of 0.13s. These factors include improving his starting time, increasing altitude and receiving a beneficial tailwind. Here are the three factors described in the research paper:
- Firstly, Bolt's reaction time is surprisingly poor, in fact one of the longest of leading sprinters. By responding to the gun as quickly as possible without triggering a false start, with 0.10s, he would shave 0.05s off his world record to 9.53s.
- Secondly, advantageous wind conditions can help athletes improve their times, although this is supposedly taken into account. Bolt's Berlin record of 9.58s benefitted from a modest 0.9m/s tailwind. If he were to benefit from a maximum permissible tailwind of 2m/s, he would expend less effort on beating wind drag and reduce this record further by 0.05s to 9.48s.
- Thirdly, running at altitude reduces the air density in the wind drag calculation, as was witnessed at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City (2240m above sea level), where significant improvements over short distances were displayed (although for longer distances the altitude makes running more difficult). As a result, athletics world records are only permitted at altitudes of up to 1000m, but this still allows Bolt to reduce his time by a further 0.03s to 9.45s if he runs at this altitude.
Here is a video of Bolt setting the record in the 100-meter dash. Take a look: