November 15, 2008

How Fast Could Usain Bolt Have Run?

File this one in the category of Left-Brain specials from somebody else’s brain (thanks to SportsFilter for picking up on this, many weeks ago).

In September, four physicists from the University of Oslo submitted a scientific paper cleverly titled Velocity Dispersions in a Cluster of Stars: How Fast Could Usain Bolt Have Run? As the abstract describes, the paper investigates the question of what Bolt’s 100 metre time might have been in the Olympic final, had he not spent the last 20 metres of the race celebrating his victory:

We revisit this question by measuring Bolt’s position as a function of time using footage of the run, and then extrapolate into the last two seconds based on two different assumptions. First, we conservatively assume that Bolt could have maintained Richard Thompson’s, the runner-up, acceleration during the end of the race. Second, based on the race development prior to the celebration, we assume that he could also have kept an acceleration of 0.5 m/s2 higher than Thompson. In these two cases, we find that the new world record would have been 9.61 ± 0.04 and 9.55 ± 0.04 seconds, respectively, where the uncertainties denote 95% statistical errors.

I will have more to say about Bolt's astounding performance at a later date, assuming that I find time to keep this up.

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