Oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god (hat tip to Sean at Cosmic Variance).
Velocity dispersions in a cluster of stars: How fast could Usain Bolt have run?
Physicists in Oslo are awesome.
From the paper’s abstract:
Since that very memorable day at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, a big question on every sports commentator’s mind has been “What would the 100 meter dash world record have been, had Usain Bolt not celebrated at the end of his race?” Glen Mills, Bolt’s coach suggested at a recent press conference that the time could have been 9.52 seconds or better. We revisit this question by measuring Bolt’s position as a function of time using footage of the run, and then extrapolate into the last two seconds based on two different assumptions. First, we conservatively assume that Bolt could have maintained Richard Thompson’s, the runner-up, acceleration during the end of the race. Second, based on the race development prior to the celebration, we assume that he could also have kept an acceleration of 0.5 m/s^2 higher than Thompson. In these two cases, we find that the new world record would have been 9.61 +/- 0.04 and 9.55 +/- 0.04 seconds, respectively, where the uncertainties denote 95% statistical errors.
How cool is it that there is a popular physics category? It’s super cool, especially when they include extrapolated figures of Bolt a full stride ahead of his original celebratory chest beating: