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# N-Metre Dash Olympic Event

They run, then decide
 (+11) [vote for, against]

This is a new Olympic event to determine who is the "fastest in the world," usually but wrongly ascribed to the winner of the 100 metre dash. The idea is motivated by the current record statistics: World record average speed for the 100 metre: 10.44 m/s. World record average speed for the 200 metre: 10.42 m/s. World record average speed for the 400 metre: 9.264 m/s. You see, they are slowing down on average as the distance increases. So initially I considered extrapolating to the zero-metre dash, but my calculator gave me an error (not sure why). Then I considered the 1-millimeter dash. I suppose a reasonable estimate is 1 mm in the first 1 ms of the race. But that gives a speed of only 1 m/s. Not fast.

In the new event, runners start with the gun like in the 100-metre, and keep running as long as each wishes. The winner will have the fastest average speed from the start to whatever (N) number of metres maximizes his or her number. It will be interesting (to some; OK a few) to see what N values typically win.

(I considered giving a prize called the N-Prize for this, but then realized some genius beat me to the use of this name.)

 — sqeaketh the wheel, Aug 08 2012

 // N-Prize...some genius beat me to the use of this name//

 Bugger - who was it? He beat me to it too.

If you look at the graph of speed vs distance, and make a few assumptions, it looks as if the fastest average speed would be over something like 150- 180m, at something like 10.5m/s. Any shorter, and the initial acceleration is too much of a factor. Any longer, and fatigue sets in.
 — MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 08 2012

If you really want the fastest possible speed over some distance, you want a running start. That would allow for a very short N.
 — MechE, Aug 08 2012

//you want a running start//
That would be the N-M metre dash, which is a different matter.
 — sqeaketh the wheel, Aug 08 2012

// Bugger - who was it? //
I think his name is something like Peter Dearly. An egghead at Oxford or somewhere.
 — sqeaketh the wheel, Aug 08 2012

 I like this idea, but how do you decide when to stop?

 You could stop the clock when the runner's velocity goes to zero, but I think that would be hard to measure accurately and reliably. Or you could could stop when the runner pushes a button - this would work acceptably if the event was recorded by high-speed camera and there were some good form of distance demaration. Or the runner could declare their distance ahead of time, and run to a fixed point which would have accurate crossing measurement.

 I also think that the start signal would become unnecessary. It should be eliminated as a source of errors. This would not necessarily be a running start since you could have the clock starting when the runner passes a point fairly close to the blocks.

 — Loris, Aug 08 2012

//how do you decide when to stop?//
You don't know what the effective distance will be until after the data is analysed. All runners start on the same gun. For each runner you compute the instantaneous (up to that moment) average speed from the start and take the maximum of this value over the entire run. So a runner stops when she is pretty sure she has passed that optimum distance.
 — sqeaketh the wheel, Aug 08 2012

 //Peter Dearly. An egghead at Oxford or somewhere.//

Oh god, not him again. He's been dogging me for years. Pay him no heed.
 — MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 08 2012

Is there a way to specify what the optimum distance would be for a given run? Something about acceleration, probably. Someone who knows calculus should be able to figure this out.
 — sqeaketh the wheel, Aug 08 2012

 //'heed' means something entirely different these days ?//

Aey, but only if ye're from Glasgae.
 — MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 08 2012

 //You don't know what the effective distance will be until after the data is analysed. All runners start on the same gun. For each runner you compute the instantaneous (up to that moment) average speed from the start and take the maximum of this value over the entire run. So a runner stops when she is pretty sure she has passed that optimum distance.//

 But if you can track each individual separately, why have them all go at once? False-starts muck things up in the shorter races already. I think the strategy of this race would boil down to running flat out for as long as possible; given your data that would be less than 100 m. If people were to go when ready, that would do away with all the annoying issues with people being disqualified for starting too quickly after the bang, having to restart because someone else false-started and so on.

If you just want them all on the track at once to save time, they could be started at intervals, a few seconds apart. With some judicious work they should be able to peel off continuously, and get the entire set done at once, under the same conditions. Give them two or three attempts with one day intervals and pick the best time.
 — Loris, Aug 08 2012

 Do they call it a dash? I thought that was something one horse does through the snow.

 I expressed some interest in a 3m sprint in another idea recently (can't remember which) about alternative events. It would be interesting to see what is the shortest possible sprint distance that can be meaningfully measured.

I expect in your example that this would evolve down to a short race, as there are undoubtedly athletes who can run very fast for very short distances (less than 10m), and that would be all you'd need.
 — tatterdemalion, Aug 08 2012

 I think the start-from-zero aspect of the race could be taken off to another event, possibly by introducing the standing high jump.

 I like the idea of running a measured distance at full speed. The runner could pick his own run-up distance, as is done in the long jump.

 I nominate fifty meters for the timing trap distance, just because we've eliminated half the factors of the hundred-meters race. I prefer to avoid using one hundred meters just because the names would get confused.

(But what is the point of a time-trap speed? As currently done, we could argue that the runners are ambushing gazelles or something, symbolically.)
 — baconbrain, Aug 08 2012

//ambushing gazelles or something, symbolically//
[mark for tagline?]
 — sqeaketh the wheel, Aug 08 2012

 I don't think that would be wise. The Symbolic Gazelle is listed as "Critical" by IUCN. Much of its habitat has been wiped out by dams for hydroelectric power, and what remains is fragmented. There is also some evidence to suggest that it is, in fact, three subspecies (the Symbolic, Ironic and Metaphoric Gazelles), which makes conservation even more challenging and imperative.

The intercalary twin tells me that the Metaphoric Gazelle is breathtakingly beautiful, incredibly scarce and yet, unusually for a game animal, barbecues remarkably well.
 — MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 08 2012

//they could be started at intervals, a few seconds apart// OK its agreed. I will inform the Olympic Committee forthwith.
 — sqeaketh the wheel, Aug 08 2012

To make this practical, use a starting gate apparatus like in down hill skiing. The gate starts the timer when the sprinter moves through it. Starting a few dozen meters behind the gate (or however far the racer desires) should let the racer reach his maximum speed when the timer starts.
 — Cuit_au_Four, Aug 09 2012

Or use Police speed guns - just let each contestant run as much as they want, and the one who shows the highest speed on their radar gun wins.

The idea of Olympic events is interesting: If we just wanted to know who could run the fastest then, as suggested by this idea, we wouldn't ask them to run 100m. If we wanted to know who could run fastest over 100m, timing equipment is reliable and standardised enough now that you could allow athletes to record all their training runs and the one who submits the fastest time wins, but for some reason it's important to have the competition be based on a single run, with everyone in the same stadium.

Also, this idea may only work for values of N above a certain (very, very small)threshold. If space is quantised (quantum theory, Planck's constant, blah blah blah ...) then atomic particles will move from one point in space to another, without moving through any intermediate points. In effect the speed of a runner between these two points will be infinite.
 — hippo, Aug 09 2012

I think quantum tunneling and superpostion states are disallowed by strict Olympic rules. Testing for these violations is another matter...
 — sqeaketh the wheel, Aug 09 2012

I seem to remember seeing a picture of someone attempting a cycling speed record. This involved a sort of floorless shed on wheels being pulled behind a car, presumably to avoid wind resistance.
If what we're interested in is the fastest someone can theoretically run under their own power, then we should try this. I propose a floorless shed on wheels pulled behind a tandem tricycle.
 — Loris, Aug 09 2012

In the track cycling sprint event, you qualify for the knockout stages by doing a sprint over 3 laps of the track. However, only the last 200m is actually timed so you can, in effect, choose your own starting point. They also have an artificial aid to increase their speed in the form of the banking around the track which enables the riders to use a catapult effect as they zoom around the banking.

Given that these principles have clearly been established as legitimate, I would suggest that the N-metre dash should allow competitors to start from an actual, real, human-sized catapult. Competitors must use their own strength & power to push back the 'bucket' before launching themselves at speed down the runway. Stuart Hall should do the commentary for it. Obviously some clever wording of the rules would be required to ensure that competitors were still actually in a controlled run once they launched themselves.
 — DrBob, Aug 09 2012

 //Or use Police speed guns - just let each contestant run as much as they want, and the one who shows the highest speed on their radar gun wins.// I Like this idea best – determine the fastest by finding who has the highest (near) instantaneous speed.

 RADARs and LIDARs made for police and sports work aren’t accurate enough, though. Most have documented speed accuracies around +/-1 MPH, over 5% error for human sprinter speeds.

 The best system, I think, would use optical motion cameras and computers to calculate the speed of the center of the runner’s center of gravity.

We must precisely define what point’s speed is being measured (such as the COG I suggest above), as various body parts can move very fast relative to your COG – as a world-class baseball pitcher can throw a ball 90+ MPH, and a world-class sprinter move his whole body 27+ MPH, measuring the instantaneous speed of, say, a runners hands, could give speeds above 100 MPH, not what we’re trying to measure (except indirectly, in say, javelin throwing). One alternative to calculating the COG speed which would be less computationally demanding would be the average of a couple of targets on either side of the waist.
 — CraigD, Aug 10 2012

Who would have actually won the race based on power output. What are the weights of the runners. Is it possible that someone who weighs twice as much but runs the distance in twice the time is actually the faster runner in terms of wattage in weightless and frictionless environment. Maybe the fastest* runner in the world is a 400 lb man that can run 100 in 18 seconds. A fastest runner in the world curve should be the new standard giving those who choose to run heavier an advantage.
 — rcarty, Aug 10 2012

// Maybe the fastest* runner in the world is a 400 lb man that can run 100 in 18 seconds.//
Right. The 400 lb one has to do more 'work' against the Higgs field in order to accelerate his bulk. If he does enough work fast enough, Higgs particles might even be created. Counting these Higgs particles would be a measure of fastest man.
 — sqeaketh the wheel, Aug 11 2012

Yes HP, Higgs Particles.
 — rcarty, Aug 11 2012

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