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Could athletes benefit from an understanding of the physics of their sports?

By James Dacey

In the July issue of Physics World there is a thought-provoking article by the philosopher Robert P Crease in which he argues that athletes know the laws of “physics”, rather than “know” the laws of physics.

The distinction may sound a bit pedantic, but the point Crease is making is that professional athletes do possess physical knowledge of their sporting activities, deep within their flesh and bones. But this, Crease argues, is distinctly different from understanding sport on a theoretical level – understanding the laws of levers and vectors does not necessarily make you a successful gymnast, for example.

Please let us know what you think about this by answering this week’s poll question:

Could athletes benefit from an understanding of the physics of their sports?

Yes, it could help them to perfect their techniques
No, any knowledge would be purely theoretical

Thumbnail image for hands smll.jpg

Have your say by visiting our Facebook page, and please feel free to explain your response by posting a comment below the poll. And you can read Crease’s article in the July issue of Physics World, which is available for a limited time as a free PDF download. This special issue of the magazine looks at physics and sport, including features on the physical principles underpinning sport, and the roles technology plays in enabling and enhancing sporting performance.

So what happened in last week’s poll? Well, last Thursday we were still caught up in the frenzy that surrounded the big announcement from CERN that its scientists had discovered a new particle, which is almost certainly the Higgs boson. We asked you to try to step out of the excitement momentarily to consider the question: What is the most significant experimental discovery in particle physics?

Faced with a choice of seven responses, it turns out that our Facebook followers rank the Higgs boson discovery as the second most significant discovery, as it picked up 26% of the vote. In first place was Rutherford’s discovery of the atomic nucleus with 36% of the vote, and in third place was the electron with 17% of votes.

Thank you for all your responses and we look forward to hearing from you in this week’s poll.

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