How does angular momentum help figure skater Rachael Flatt achieve the perfect triple toe loop? How does elastic collision allow three-time Olympic hockey player Julie Chu convert a game-winning slapshot? How do Newton's Three Laws of Motion propel short track speed skater J.R. Celski to the finish line? These are just a few of the scientific principles explored in a special 16-part video series entitled "The Science of the Olympic Winter Games," presented by NBC Learn, NBC Olympics and the National Science Foundation.
In a unique collaboration, NBC Learn, the educational arm of NBC News, has teamed up with NBC Olympics and the National Science Foundation (NSF) to produce a 16-part video series focusing on the science behind how athletes preparing for February's Vancouver Games skate, ski, jump and curl to Olympic gold. This groundbreaking collaboration capitalizes on the massive spotlight on the Vancouver Olympics to make science accessible to students throughout the United States by illustrating how scientific principles apply to competitive sports.
The video series is narrated by NBC News anchor Lester Holt and available to viewers on , , and . NBC's "Today" premiered a piece from the series this morning. The project will also be offered to educators as a timely way to incorporate the Olympics into classroom learning.
In each piece in the series, an NSF-supported scientist explains the selected scientific principle, while Olympic athletes describe how these principles apply to their respective sports. The science is broken down by capturing the athletes' movements with a state-of-the-art, high-speed camera called the Phantom Cam, which has the astonishing ability to capture movement at rates of up to 1,500 frames per second. This allows frame-by-frame illustrations of Newton's Three Laws of Motion, the Law of Conservation of Angular Momentum, friction, drag, speed, velocity, and other scientific concepts.
"Science touches every aspect of our nation's popular pursuits, including its athletic events," said Jeff Nesbit, director of the National Science Foundation's Office of Legislative and Public Affairs. "It's exciting to partner with NBC Learn and NBC's Emmy-award winning Olympic division to present the range and depth of that science to a huge American audience while ultimately inspiring the passions of young people across the United States in all the things science can do."
"This unique project shows just how versatile NBC Learn can be," said Steve Capus, President of NBC News. "We've made a commitment to education and this project is another creative way to support classroom learning using the journalism and production resources of NBC News. Every two years the Olympics captivate us. This project is another way of telling the remarkable stories of athletes who are the best of the best."
Rachael Flatt, a 17-year-old high school senior at Cheyenne Mountain High School in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and among the favorites to qualify for the Vancouver Games in figure skating, may understand the ins-and-outs of the science behind her sport better than anyone else on the ice. The straight-A student's father is a biochemical engineer, while her mother is a molecular biologist.
"I guess it's definitely safe to say that science runs in my blood!" said Flatt. "I jumped at the chance to participate in this project because my parents have passed along their love of science to me over the years and I hope to one-day pursue a career in the field."
In addition to Flatt, the "The Science of the Olympic Winter Games" features two-time Olympic medalist and Harvard graduate Julie Chu (Hockey) from Fairfield, Connecticut; 2006 Olympic bronze medalist John Shuster (Curling), from Chisholm, Minnesota; 2006 Olympian Emily Cook (Freestyle Skiing), from Belmont, Massachusetts; and 2010 Olympic hopefuls J.R. Celski (Short Track Speed Skating) from Federal Way, Washington and Liz Stephens (Cross-Country Skiing) from East Montpelier, Vermont.
About NBC Learn
NBC Learn () is the educational arm of NBC News dedicated to providing engaging and innovative resources for students, teachers, and lifelong learners. The online resources NBC Learn has created for the education community leverage nearly 80 years of historic news coverage, documentary materials, and current news broadcasts. Currently two unique offerings, iCue () and NBC News Archives on Demand (), give students and teachers access to thousands of video clips from the NBC News archives, including great historic moments - - from the Great Depression to the Space Race to the latest political coverage. NBC Learn also offers primary source materials, classroom planning resources, and additional text and image resources from our content partners.
About NBC Olympics
NBC, America's Olympic Network, has broadcast 11 Olympic Games, the most Olympics broadcast by any network. NBC surpassed ABC's 10 Olympics with the 2008 Beijing Games, the most watched event in U.S. television history with 215 million viewers.
The 2010 Vancouver Games mark the sixth of an unprecedented seven consecutive Olympic broadcasts by NBC Sports, which began with the 2000 Sydney Games and continues through the 2012 London Games.
About the National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year 2009, its budget is $9.5 billion, which includes $3.0 billion provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to over 1,900 universities and institutions.