AUG 16, 2016 6:34 AM PDT

High Dives and Physics


It's Olympic season and that means high dives in Rio. Whether it's one athlete, or two in tandem, the physics of these 10 meter plunges are key scoring the gold and not getting hurt in the process. Lower dives at 3 meters go off a spring board, but the 10 meter board is solid concrete. Forward velocity is necessary for the diver to clear the platform. Height is also crucial, since it allows more time for twists and moves.

Once airborne, on the way to the water's surface, it's all about two positions, tuck and pike. Each affects the diver's rotation. Proper control of rotation will increase their speed but decrease the moment of inertia and it's this very precise ratio that allows them to do such complex and high scoring moves in a very short time. In a tuck dive they have less control over rotation, and less moves on the way down, but it's a higher scoring dive because it's more difficult.

Finally, it's all about the splash. Divers are judged on how little splash they create on entering the water. After a bunch of flips, the diver has to straighten out to achieve this low splash entry and there's not much time, plus it's working against the physics of rotation. Divers at the Olympic level have to judge their speed, rotation, distance from the surface and how many twists and flips they must do in under ten seconds, while traveling at more than 30 mph on impact. It's a lot of math and physics in addition to superior athletic ability.
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
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