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  • Execrable New Scientist article about Usain Bolt

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn2 ... ician.html

    Wow, I feel embarrassed for everybody that had a hand in writing this poorly researched garbage. Anybody able to login and leave a commentary of the 100 things they got wrong?

  • #2
    Re: Execrable New Scientist article about Usain Bolt

    I saw that a few days ago, and it does seem somewhat silly. Although it should be mentioned that when Tim Montgomery set the then WR of 9.78, his reaction time was 0.104 (as I recall) and the tailwind was 2.0. Yes, I realize that it was later annulled, quite justifiably. But that mark was essentially a flyer with the max possible wind. The article is basically saying what if Bolt did the same, then we would be looking at a silly fast time.

    I do like how the article says that this prediction is even faster than the prediction by someone else. Like either of them are anywhere close to realistic predictions. It would probably take me all of 45 minutes and 4 or 5 beers to come up with an equally valid looking 9.32. I can't believe that people get paid for doing sloppy research like that. Although it is in "New Scientist," not "Good Scientist."

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Execrable New Scientist article about Usain Bolt

      That story has been kicking around the Internet on various sites for more than a week now. It is appalling that some mathematician is claiming that his insights are original and that ignorant folks are accepting this claim. In fact, the benefit of an improved reaction time is self-evidence, and the effect of wind and altitude on sprint times was well documented by Jesus Dapena and Nicholas Linthorne back in the '80s and '90s. Nothing new here at all.

      Edited to fix typo

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Execrable New Scientist article about Usain Bolt

        The author says that Bolt could "safely cut his reaction time" and thereby improve his WR. Good Lord, it is all so simple... why didn't Bolt's coaches or any of the rest of us think of that!!! Just start faster.
        Maybe Bolt should practice starts! What an innovation.
        Or maybe simply move his legs faster?
        It has also been noted that world-class sprinters tend to reach max-velocity somewhere before the end of the race... maybe Bolt should just maintain that speed, or even keep increasing it, all the way to the finish?
        Ain't science grand?

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Execrable New Scientist article about Usain Bolt

          Originally posted by jhc68
          Ain't science grand?
          What this guy is doing is no science,these are numerical speculations, mere musings.
          "A beautiful theory killed by an ugly fact."
          by Thomas Henry Huxley

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Execrable New Scientist article about Usain Bolt

            Originally posted by Pego
            Originally posted by jhc68
            Ain't science grand?
            What this guy is doing is no science,these are numerical speculations, mere musings.
            Exactly. But what makes it worse that there[*]have[*] been serious academic studies aimed at calculating the effect of wind and altitude on sprint times. Even their adjustment factors have to be taken as approximations, but at least they are science-based, not just some guy observing the obvious (that altitude and wind do affect times) and then just making up numbers.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Execrable New Scientist article about Usain Bolt

              It took a "mathmatician" to come up with this? Heck, this is not science or higher mathmatics, just arithmatic.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Execrable New Scientist article about Usain Bolt

                Oh wow I think I own a book by this guy. Well, I'm chucking it in the bin! Did you get to the bit where he starts halving 200m times? Man, I can't wait to read what this guy has to say about Planck's constant and quantum gravity. Cambridge ought to fire his ass.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Execrable New Scientist article about Usain Bolt

                  Originally posted by Giant Panda
                  Oh wow I think I own a book by this guy. Well, I'm chucking it in the bin! Did you get to the bit where he starts halving 200m times? Man, I can't wait to read what this guy has to say about Planck's constant and quantum gravity. Cambridge ought to fire his ass.

                  Mathematicians are not necessarily physicists so I doubt if Planck's constant or quantum mechanics apply here. This is just a simplistic arithmetic view about what Bolt could run if the various permutation of ( reaction time, allowable wind speed and Altitude) was ideal. Nothing original here. Even a novice T&F fan like me have performed similar calculation in the past.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Execrable New Scientist article about Usain Bolt

                    Another piece of bullshit in the article:

                    Bolt could finally shave a further 0.03 seconds off his time if he ran the race at an altitude up to, but not exceeding, 1000 metres, where the air is thinner and offers less resistance. Records don't stand unless they're at altitudes below 1000 metres.
                    That's simply not true.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Execrable New Scientist article about Usain Bolt

                      Originally posted by Giant Panda
                      Cambridge ought to fire his ass.
                      Yes, and perhaps nobody should pay any attention to ANYTHING appearing in New Scientist or on their website.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Execrable New Scientist article about Usain Bolt

                        Originally posted by mcgato
                        I saw that a few days ago, and it does seem somewhat silly. Although it should be mentioned that when Tim Montgomery set the then WR of 9.78, his reaction time was 0.104 (as I recall) and the tailwind was 2.0. Yes, I realize that it was later annulled, quite justifiably. But that mark was essentially a flyer with the max possible wind. The article is basically saying what if Bolt did the same, then we would be looking at a silly fast time.

                        I do like how the article says that this prediction is even faster than the prediction by someone else. Like either of them are anywhere close to realistic predictions. It would probably take me all of 45 minutes and 4 or 5 beers to come up with an equally valid looking 9.32. I can't believe that people get paid for doing sloppy research like that. Although it is in "New Scientist," not "Good Scientist."
                        Well, he could get that start, plus FloJo's "0.0" wind and that would help take a 9.58 down to 9.32. That would be a quasi, quasi WR, and more likely if we could put it at altitude when he is at the top of his game.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Execrable New Scientist article about Usain Bolt

                          The greatest irony is the completely unintentional:

                          The original article was not in New Scientist but in the magazine "Significance" published by the Royal Statistical Society. A magazine that has "Statistics making sense" as its sub-title .....

                          The latest issue of "Significance" which (inspired by the upcoming Olympics) appears to have sports as a general theme. Looking at the titles and the abstracts the Bolt article is not the only gem in this issue. A couple of examples:

                          The long jump: How to jump the same distance and win
                          Distance is not everything in the long jump. As John Haigh explains, there is a trade?off between taking off close to the mark and the risk of disqualification – and it should crucially affect a jumper's tactics.

                          Men's records and women's: are the women better already?: Moving towards a gender-neutral Olympics
                          Women's record times and distances may always lag behind men's. But, asks Stephanie Kovalchik, is this because we are measuring the wrong things? She looks forward to an Olympics that rewards achievement as well as luck of the genes – where determination as much as talent could earn an athlete gold …

                          How lucky we are that scientists as these are there to help us understand our sport! How else would we have realised that the risk of fouling crucially affects a jumper's tactics? Or that we are measuring the wrong things when we are recording times, distances and heights achieved rather than the determination?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Execrable New Scientist article about Usain Bolt

                            Originally posted by fortyacresandamule


                            Mathematicians are not necessarily physicists so I doubt if Planck's constant or quantum mechanics apply here. This is just a simplistic arithmetic view about what Bolt could run if the various permutation of ( reaction time, allowable wind speed and Altitude) was ideal. Nothing original here. Even a novice T&F fan like me have performed similar calculation in the past.
                            If you were familiar with my posting style you'd know I rarely say anything without knowing the whole context.


                            John David Barrow FRS (born 29 November 1952, London) is an English cosmologist, theoretical physicist, and mathematician. He is currently Research Professor of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Cambridge. Barrow is also a writer of popular science and an amateur playwright.
                            Cosmic Imagery: Key Images in the History of Science. ISBN 978-0224075237
                            New Theories of Everything. ISBN 978-0192807212
                            Between Inner Space and Outer Space: Essays on the Science, Art, and Philosophy of the Origin of the Universe
                            Impossibility: Limits of Science and the Science of Limits. ISBN 0-09-977211-6
                            Material Content of the Universe
                            Pi in the Sky: Counting, Thinking, and Being
                            Science and Ultimate Reality: Quantum Theory, Cosmology and Complexity
                            [Edit this reference]
                            Barrow, John D.; Tipler, Frank J. (19 May 1988). The Anthropic Cosmological Principle. foreword by John A. Wheeler. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780192821478. LC 87-28148. Retrieved 31 December 2009.
                            The Artful Universe: The Cosmic Source of Human Creativity
                            The Book of Nothing: Vacuums, Voids, and the Latest Ideas about the Origins of the Universe
                            The Infinite Book: A Short Guide to the Boundless, Timeless and Endless
                            The Left Hand of Creation: The Origin and Evolution of the Expanding Universe
                            The Origin of the Universe: To the Edge of Space and Time
                            The Universe That Discovered Itself
                            The World Within the World
                            Theories of Everything: The Quest for Ultimate Explanation
                            The Constants of Nature: The Numbers that Encode the Deepest Secrets of the Universe
                            100 Essential Things You Didn't Know You Didn't Know
                            As you can see from his bibliography, the man is an expert on things he doesn't know, voids, and pie in the sky.

                            I posted this thread because it's a prime example of the sort of journalism I hate. Nobody researches anything properly and the editors presume it's fine because it sounds original to their ear and they presume they're cleverer than the lay reader. Meanwhile nobody corrects an academic who is either talking out of his hat or being misquoted by the press. I know this is standard procedure in science writing but it makes everybody look foolish. The guy's a theoretical physicist in the same maths department that Isaac Newton used to chair. He shouldn't be publishing bullshit. I mean yuck, it's embarrassing. The whole thing is riddled with even more errors than everybody has so far pointed out. By the academic, by the journalist, by the editor, by the proofreader, by the fact checker. It's risible.

                            I see this all the time reading the sports pages in the daily paper. When I see how much they get wrong about sports I wonder how much they don't know about the news and the editorials. It's scary.

                            And that's my wider point. It makes serious people look disreputable to be associated with those who peddle crappy ideas. It brings into question whether they can tell the difference and if they deserve whatever positive reputation they might have. It's important to call people out on sloppy work because you never know what else is slipping under the radar. These people need to know how bad that article is. If I employed any of them I'd fire them over it because I wouldn't want anybody competent to be associated with it.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Execrable New Scientist article about Usain Bolt

                              Originally posted by Giant Panda
                              As you can see from his bibliography, the man is an expert on things he doesn't know, voids, and pie in the sky.
                              Following in the foot steps of Fred Hoyle. Also an FRS!

                              Comment

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