Winter Olympics Starting This Week

I have mentioned here several times in the past that my educational background and professional career involved the physical sciences.  To make a point today, I need to provide a brief and simple tutorial on the physical properties of water.  We have all experienced the fact that water expands when it freezes; put a can of soda or a full plastic bottle of water in the freezer overnight and you will have a ruptured can or bottle with a frozen mass of stuff in the morning.  Water is not the only substance that behaves this way, but it is far and away the most abundant one to do so.

Now take a leap of faith here…  There is something known as the Clausius-Clapeyron Equation and the upshot of that equation is this:

  • Substances that expand upon freezing also have a higher freezing point/melting point as the pressure increases on the substance.

Just trust me here; you do not want to know the derivation of the Clausius-Clapeyron Equation; in fact, the only people who really care about it at all are those who are about to take a Final Exam in a physical chemistry course.  All you need to do now is to believe me when I tell you that increasing the pressure on an ice cube will melt that ice cube as surely as increasing the temperature will melt that ice cube.

And that is the reason people can ice skate.  The area under those knife-sharp skate blades is incredibly small; the weight of the skater is supported only in that small area under the skate blades meaning the pressure in that long and thin support zone is very high.  And that increase in pressure “melts” the ice under the blade such that the skater moves along on a minuscule film of water – which refreezes as soon as the back of the skate blade moves away.

This has some marginal relevance today simply because the Winter Olympics in Korea are about to begin this weekend.  Every single event in those games is dependent on the fact that water expands on freezing and that leads to the situation where water freezes at a higher temperature when under high pressure.  Every event you will read about or see on TV would not be possible without that underlying physical principle.

Cement does not behave like water.  Imagine putting on a pair of ice skates and trying to execute a figure skating move on a cement slab.  It would not work; it would not end well for the skater.  If you enjoy any of the events taking place over the next several weeks, tip your hat to water as a substance and to Clausius and Clapeyron for explaining how and why your enjoyment came to be.

[Aside:  About the only part of the Winter Games that I can find that has nothing to do with this phenomenon is the portion of the biathlon that involves target shooting.]

Changing the subject here …  ESPN had to do a major overhaul to its announcing team on Sunday Night Baseball for 2018.  Aaron Boone had been part of the three-person announcing team for several seasons, but Boone took over as the manager of the Yankees in December.  Dan Shulman had done the play-by-play on Sunday Night Baseball for about 5 years, but he decided to step away from that job during this offseason.  [Aside:  Dan Shulman will continue to work ESPN college basketball telecasts and selected Toronto Blue Jays games on the Canadian network, Sportsnet.]

ESPN selected Matt Vasgersian to replace Shulman.  That should work just fine; both Shulman and Vasgersian are solid broadcasters who do not dominate the action of the game.   I think the more interesting ESPN replacement is Alex Rodriguez to take over for Aaron Boone.  This is interesting for two reasons:

  1. A long time ago, A-Rod replaced Aaron Boone at third base for the Yankees.  Now he is replacing him in the broadcast booth; an interesting coincidence …
  2. Alex Rodriguez was hardly a loveable figure for the latter part of his playing career.  I have no intention of rehashing all the negativity that surrounded him then, but in his broadcasting incarnation, A-Rod is enlightening and enjoyable.  For those who are spring-loaded to hate him for his prior actions and persona, take a deep breath and just listen to him on the microphone.  He is not the spawn of Beelzebub; he is actually pretty good as an announcer.

As of this morning, the other two members of the broadcasting team for Sunday Night Baseball – Jessica Mendoza and Buster Olney – will remain in their positions for the 2018 season.  I will spend at least some of the time early in the season listening to the new broadcast team for clues as to their longevity.  Sunday Night Baseball has had its share of turnover over the past 20 years or so – particularly in the analysts’ chairs.

An e-mail from a friend alerted me to a Division III basketball game that would surely have escaped my notice.

  • Fontbonne University is a small school (about 3000 students) located in St. Louis.
  • Greenville University is a small school (about 1500 students) located in Greenville, Illinois.
  • Both teams participate in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Recently, the Fontbonne basketball team paid a visit to Greenville and I think the scoreboard operator may have suffered carpal tunnel syndrome as a result.  Here are just a few stats from the game:

  • Final score was Fontbonne 164  Greenville  154  (OT)
  • Teams combined to attempt 224 field goals
  • Teams combined to attempt 88 3-point shots
  • Teams combined to take down 126 rebounds (they missed a lot of those shots)
  • Teams combined free throw shooting was 55 for 91.

This sounds as if it was the collegiate version of a game on the And-1 Tour; and yes, this is the NCAA record for most points in a basketball game.  However, this is not an outrageous outcome when you consider that Greenville has scored 140 or more points 6 times in regulation games this season.  Fontbonne has not been nearly such a scoring machine; in fact, the only two games where Fontbonne went north of 100 points were the two games against Greenville.  [The previous game in December was a win for Greenville by a score of 147-138.]  I think it is fair to surmise that Greenville spends less time in practice on defense than it does on offense…

Finally, since I mentioned the Winter Olympics at the outset today, here are two comments about the upcoming games from writers that I follow:

“NBC announced that it will air over 2,400 hours of Winter Olympics coverage. If you don’t despise mixed doubles curling at the beginning, you will by the end.”  [Brad Dickson, Omaha-World-Herald]

And …

“The ring thing: The Winter Olympics are less than a month away. It’s about time I drafted my curling fantasy league team.”  [Bob Molinaro, Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot]

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



4 thoughts on “Winter Olympics Starting This Week”

  1. Professor:

    Clausius-Clapeyron! Only a former chemical thermodynamicist would invoke those two guys. What’s next – VAT-VUS diagrams?

    1. Price:

      I doubt that I will be able to make a connection between VAT/VUS diagrams and something current in the sports world. But, you never know … 🙂

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