August 24, 2008

Math Flaw Allows The Proverbial Tortoise Beat The Hare

Man running at very fast speedHow fast can a man run? More importantly, what is the speed limit for us human beings? The mere answer of 'the speed of light' (for bodies having a rest mass) isn't enough. You might also suggest that going at sound's speed ain't a good idea too, due to the 'sonic boom' that happens at 1 Mach. Recently,Usain Bolt took 9.69 seconds in 100 meter dash in Beijing 2008 Olympics. He broke his own previous record. What if someone bettered him or even someone surpassed this 'bettering man'?

Speed will certainly depend on various biomechanical and metabolic factors, and will be limited by some constraints. The height and weight of the individual, the efficiency of anaerobic glycolysis, ATP and phosphoryl creatine stores, the training, which induces certain (fast twitch fibers, for sprint) are important. The strength of bones and the Young's modiolus, governing the stress-strain relationship (also of cartilages) are important factors of biomechanics of sports.

Nerve conduction velocities, refractory period (the time during which an excitable tissue like the nerve or muscle is NOT responsive to stimuli) of nerves and muscles are determining factors too, as is the pumping of calcium ions from muscle fibers back into the sarcoplasmic reticulum. Here I am disregarding external factors like friction, wind drag; and other physiological parameters like metabolic build-up like lactates or temperature, for the sake of lucidity.

So how much is the maximum possible speed? We are yet to decide using the physical and physiological attributes. But how about 'running' slowly and claiming a trophy? The bottom line is: you can even beat Bold, boldly! Just run the 100 meter dash in 100 seconds. A flaw in the mathematical calculation system allows you to do the trick. Read about it at 'cosmic variance'.

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