The Olympics, whether summer or winter, are truly
mesmerizing. While I am not yet a fan of curling, despite their Russian venue
the "Ice Cube Curling Center", the athleticism of the participants in the games
seems to defy physics.
Americans were captured with Sage Kotsenburg's win of
the first gold medal of the games in snowboarding. His reckless abandon and
seemingly spontaneous achievement was a "backside 1620 with a Japan grab". This
trick involved four and a half revolutions in the air while grabbing the board
in front of his front foot.
Sage, an ironic name in itself meaning a person of
profound wisdom, uses language like "rad" and "sick" to describe his work. While
his analysis may be in non-traditional terms, the National Science Foundation
and NBC Learn have been working on 10 videos that explain the "science,
technology, engineering, design and mathematics behind winter Olympic sports."
Valerie Strauss recently wrote a piece for the Washington Post noting that an engineer explain the shape of the "half pipe" and the aerodynamics of sledding
while physicists explain the center of mass in ice skating and rotational
motion in freestyle skiing.
While I have never seen the academic resumes of the
Olympic athletes, they truly understand science, math, physics and engineering
in application. Perhaps the lessons of the Winter Olympic Games are not solely
about competition and winning medals…the lessons from the games may also be
about how young people learn…and how we should teach.