While coasting down Gariwang mountain this year, downhill skiers will reach speeds your car can’t even legally achieve. It’s a breathtaking example of Newton’s second law of motion: A force (pushing off) on an object (the skier) produces acceleration. When gravity takes over, look out below!
Being the fastest—without taking a dangerous tumble—means balancing gravity with friction, and speed with resistance. Using techniques like “edging,” skiers can precisely control their descent, and move their bodies to become more aerodynamic.
And while the occasional airborne moment gets oohs and ahhs from the crowd, it can also cost a skier some very precious time.
Watch this quick video to see how physics goes for gold.
Want to know more? Check out the National Science Foundation’s “Science of the Winter Olympics” video playlist.