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Science in sports

Lexus Has Built a Working Hoverboard

Toyota continues to do some fun and interesting research while they produce great cars (and make a lot of money doing so that allows them resources to do interesting research). Some past posts on their engineering exploits: Toyota Develops Thought-controlled Wheelchair (2009), Toyota Engineering Development Process, Innovation at Toyota, How to Develop Products like Toyota, Toyota IT Overview.

Toyota is teasing with the hoverboard announcement but it seems they have actually created it (though it isn’t ready to be in stores this year.

Liquid nitrogen cooled superconductors and permanent magnets combine to power the Lexus Hoverboard.

Sadly they haven’t bothered to hire a decent web designer. They have a pretty but broken website, with essentially no information. It is sad when interesting stories are keep to nearly no information using poorly designed websites created by people obviously more concerned with old fashion paper design thinking than how the web can be used to be clear and useful (not just pretty).

Pretty much for the last 10 years Toyota has had pretty but web hostile design for their web sites. It is a shame they can’t hire people that know how to properly create good web sites. Thankfully they hire good engineers and use good processes to actually develop products.

Exercise Reduces Anxiety While Also Promoting the Growth of New Neurons

Exercise reorganizes the brain to be more resilient to stress

These findings potentially resolve a discrepancy in research related to the effect of exercise on the brain — namely that exercise reduces anxiety while also promoting the growth of new neurons in the ventral hippocampus. Because these young neurons are typically more excitable than their more mature counterparts, exercise should result in more anxiety, not less. The Princeton-led researchers, however, found that exercise also strengthens the mechanisms that prevent these brain cells from firing.

From an evolutionary standpoint, the research also shows that the brain can be extremely adaptive and tailor its own processes to an organism’s lifestyle or surroundings, Gould said. A higher likelihood of anxious behavior may have an adaptive advantage for less physically fit creatures. Anxiety often manifests itself in avoidant behavior and avoiding potentially dangerous situations would increase the likelihood of survival, particularly for those less capable of responding with a “fight or flight” reaction, she said.

The anxiety-reducing effect of exercise was canceled out when the researchers blocked the GABA receptor that calms neuron activity in the ventral hippocampus.

Interesting research (with mice) that explores how exercise makes us more resilient to stress. I know for me, exercise seems to help relieve stress.

Related: Feed your Newborn NeuronsNew Neurons are Needed for New MemoriesRegular Aerobic Exercise for a Faster Brain (2007)Inactivity Leads to 5.3 Million Early Deaths a YearHow Aerobic Exercise Suppresses Appetite

Sports Science Behind Jeremy Lin’s Breakout Performance

Jeremy Lin’s performance has been amazing. It is always fun to see someone succeed who wasn’t expected to do so well.d Jeremy Lin was waived by two teams and now has lead the Nicks to an amazing performance the last 10 games for the New York Knicks in the NBA. It will be fun to see how it continues.

The video gives a very cursory overview of some of the training Jeremy Lin did between basketball seasons.

A few decades ago training was largely about learning and working on a few fundamentals and playing. In the last few decades the science behind athletics has created a huge change in preparation for sports at high levels, as we have written about previously: Physicist Swimming Revolution, Science of the High Jump, Sports Engineering @ MIT, Engineering A Golf Swing, Static Stretching Decreases Muscle Strength

Robot Tennis Partners Coming Soon?

The robots in the video, and many more, are being tested at the Flying Machine Arena at the The Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control, Department of Mechanical and Process Engineering, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology – Zurich.

They also usually have a number of challenging projects available. Qualified, motivated students should visit the Theses/Projects page and contact them to learn more. We need more people working on these types of things so I can have my robot basketball team available when I want to play.

Related: Robot Playing Table TennisRobocup 2010, Robot FootballDolphin Kick Gives Swimmers Edge

sOccket: Power Through Play

In a fun example of appropriate technology and innovation 4 college students have created a football (soccer ball) that is charged as you play with it. The ball uses an inductive coil mechanism to generate energy, thanks in part to a novel Engineering Sciences course, Idea Translation. They are beta testing the ball in Africa: the current prototypes can provide light 3 hours of LED light after less than 10 minutes of play. Jessica Matthews ’10, Jessica Lin ’09, Hemali Thakkara ’11 and Julia Silverman ’10 (see photo) created the eco-friendly ball when they all were undergraduates at Harvard College.

photo of sOccket creators: Jessica Matthews, Jessica Lin, Hemali Thakkara and Julia Silverman

sOccket creators: Jessica Matthews, Jessica Lin, Hemali Thakkara and Julia Silverman

They received funding from: Harvard Institute for Global Health and the Clinton Global Initiative University. The

sOccket won the Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award, which recognizes the innovators and products poised to change the world. A future model could be used to charge a cell phone.

From Take part: approximately 1.5 billion people worldwide use kerosene to light their homes. “Not only is kerosene expensive, but its flames are dangerous and the smoke poses serious health risks,” says Lin. Respiratory infections account for the largest percentage of childhood deaths in developing nations—more than AIDS and malaria.

Related: High school team presenting a project they completed to create a solution to provide clean waterWater Pump Merry-go-RoundEngineering a Better World: Bike Corn-ShellerGreen Technology Innovation by College Engineering Students

Watch a June 2010 interview on the ball:
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NHL Experiments with the Rules of Hockey

The NHL’s ice-capades

The players—who were, in an attention-getting wrinkle, mostly top junior stars eligible for the 2011 draft—road-tested everything from two-on-two overtime to shallower nets to having the second referee view the play from an elevated off-ice platform. On day two, viewers were confronted with the bizarre spectacle of the traditional five faceoff circles being replaced by three, running up the middle of the rink.

Placed in charge of the R & D effort, and the sales job surrounding it, is retired hockey great Brendan Shanahan, now the league’s vice-president of hockey and business development. “There were some ideas that were adventurous and others that were subtle,” says Shanahan, about the recent camp. “I wanted to capture the full spectrum.” Shanahan, who had the final say on the testing schedule, takes the scientist’s view that a “negative” experimental result can be as useful and instructive as a “positive” one. “Sometimes you just have to see things play out to really satisfy your curiosity,” he says. “What I told people that got sort of frightened at some of our far-out ideas is that sometimes your goal is to breathe life into an idea—but other times, you try it out because it’s time to put it to bed.”

I applaud their willingness to try experiments. I am a sports fan who doesn’t find much interest in the NHL, but I do enjoy Olympic hockey.

Related: Teen Goalie Designs Camouflage PadsEngineering a Better FootballRandomization in SportsBaseball Pitch Designed in the Lab

Friday Fun: Aerodynamics for Sports

“Impossible” Soccer Kick Leads to New Physics Equation

The amazing goal — which left French goalkeeper Fabien Barthez too stunned to react — was scored during a friendly match in the run up to the 1998 World Cup. A group of French scientists, perhaps desperate to prove that at least the laws of physics weren’t actively rooting against their national team, have been able to figure out the trajectory of the ball and, with it, an equation to describe its unusual path.

It all comes down to the fact that, when a sphere spins, its trajectory is a spiral. Usually, gravity and the relatively short distance the ball travels cover up this spiral trajectory, but Carlos was a mere 115 feet away and kicked the ball hard enough to reveal its true spiral-like path.

In this open access paper, the spinning ball spiral, the authors explore the science behind ball paths in different situations.

one can identify sports dominated by aerodynamics (table tennis, golf and tennis) and sports dominated by gravity (basketball and handball). In between, we find sports where both gravity and aerodynamics play a comparable role (soccer, volleyball and baseball). Indeed, in the first category of sports, the spin is systematically used, while it is not relevant in the second category, and it only appears occasionally in the third one, in order to produce surprising trajectories.

Related: Friday Fun: Amazing GoalThe Science of the Football SwerveEngineering a Better Football

Friday Fun: Robocup 2010, Robot Football

Robocup 2010 took place in Singapore and 2 German team faced each other in the finals. Robocup is an international research and education initiative. RoboCupRescue is a related effort to develop rescue robots for hostile environments.

Related: RoboCup 2008: Robot Football (Soccer)Robot Playing Table TennisToyota Develops Thought-controlled Wheelchair

Friday Fun: Amazing Goal

This amazing goal illustrates what is possible with an amazing football (soccer) player and some physics.

Related: The Science of the Football SwerveEngineering a Better Football
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Basketball Padding

Basketball used to be considered a non-contact sport. Now more and more college and pro players are wearing padding. March Madness, this year with more padding

Plumlee and dozens of other college basketball players wear compression shirts and shorts dotted with foam and plastic shock-absorbing pads under their uniforms. There are also padded sleeves for the elbows and knees. In the past few years players have started to wear this layer of protective gear meant to feel like a second-skin in a sport that has bigger, faster and stronger athletes than ever.

“Some of the things you’ll see like these products, a lot of them tend to be more fads that come and go,” he said. “But anything that comes down over the edge of a bony prominence, or on the knee, makes sense. For the ribs — there’s cartilage that is a natural shock absorber so I don’t know how truly affective that piece might be.”

Purchase: McDavid knee and elbow padsMcDavid Hex Power Shooter Arm SleeveHexpad Thudd with Extended Thigh

Related: Teen Goalie Designs Camouflage PadsEngineering Basketball FlopEngineering A Golf SwingThe Glove, Engineering Coolness

Robot Playing Table Tennis

This video shows the robot has a ways to go to become a decent ping pong opponent. But progress is being made. How soon before I can have fun competing with some robot basketball players?

TOPIO can play table tennis with human beings. It has a head, two hands and six legs. It can hit the ball, calculate scores and express feelings upon losing or winning a game. Four high-speed cameras help TOPIO identify the trajectory of the ball and accurately return shots. TOPIO knows how to hit an incoming ping pong ball when it has traveled only 20 cm from the opponents paddle.

The made-in-Vietnam robot TOPIO captured special attention at the International Robot Exhibition (IREX) held in Tokyo in late 2007.

Related: RoboCup: Robot Football (Soccer)RoboCup German Open 2008Toyota Develops Thought-controlled Wheelchair

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