Saturday, July 27, 2013

Usain Bolt's Life Lessons

What a dream job: watching sport  all the time and calling it scientific study. An article in the European Journal of Physics (how many EU commissioners can you fit on the head of a pin?) examines the physics of Usain Bolt, and came to this startling discovery:

The team calculated that Bolt's maximum power occurred when he was less than one second into the race and was only at half his maximum speed. This demonstrates the near immediate effect of drag, which is where air resistance slows moving objects.
They also discovered less than 8% of the energy his muscles produced was used for motion, with the rest absorbed by drag.
92% of his energy is expended simply overcoming drag. 
Which made me wonder if a similar proportion applies in other fields of life. If from all that effort that Bolt puts in, just under 1/12th goes in forward motion, then what's the proportion for, say, parenting? Leading a church? Community development? Trying to get fit? Growing in character? 
If life feels like a drag, then perhaps that instinct is scientifically correct, and it literally is. Unless we're competing at altitude with a following wind (metaphor alert?), then we may end up wondering why every bit of effort we put in doesn't immediately translate into a result. But if 9% or more does, then we're doing better than Usain. 

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