Today the Washington Post tackled the question how skiers can hit higher speeds than a skydiver without a parachute.
Depending on which sources you trust, the record is somewhere between 145 and 156 mph. That's sort of amazing, because it's faster than the terminal velocity of a human body free-falling through the air in the classic belly-down arms-out position -- about 125 mph. (Your mileage may vary.) How is that possible?
Basically, it comes down to two factors: heat and form.
Form is important because the parachute-free skydiver is likely flailing in a not altogether aerodynamic fashion. A local scientist's research illuminates the heat side of the equation:
University of Colorado physicist David Lind once calculated that the total heat generated under a ski could reach 360 watts, the equivalent of six 60-watt bulbs. By contrast, when it's too cold for this "meltwater lubrication" to form, say at around 15 below zero, even the best ski bottoms (typically made of high-density polyethylene, as are grocery-store milk jugs) can start to grate on you, acting like sandpaper and raising the probability of a Full Face Plant, a high-impact version of extreme cosmetic makeover.
Keep that in mind the next time you're out carving in near-Absolute Zero temperatures at Loveland.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.