Why do Olympic records keep getting broken?

Over at Discovery News, Emily Sohn asks the question I've been wondering for the last two weeks. Why are Olympians today better at their sports than Olympians of the past? Why do speed records keep getting broken? Why can gymnasts do more elaborate routines?

I mean, I have plenty of reasonable, speculative answers for those questions. But I hadn't seen them addressed in a factual way. This is great. And fascinating.

The answer, experts say, involves a combination of incremental technological improvements, as well as a growing population of people attempting a larger variety of sports that they start earlier and stick with longer. The mind plays a big role, too, especially when it comes to toppling seemingly insurmountable barriers, like the four-minute mile of the past or the two-hour marathon of the future.

"There is almost certainly a species limit in terms of physical capabilities, and I suspect we might be in the range of that," said Carl Foster, an exercise physiologist at the University of Wisconsin, Lacrosse. "But every time scientists say humans are not going to go any faster, they've been shown to be wrong. You can take that one to the bank."

Through calculations of maximum power output, oxygen use, heart function and other factors, some researchers have attempted to predict what the absolute limits of human ability will be. Much-debated estimates include 1:58 for the marathon (a five-minute improvement over the current men's record of 2:03.38), and 9.48 for the men's 100m.

Read the rest at Discovery News

Russian synchronized swimmers performed to the theme from Suspiria to the delight of Olympic horror nerds

The Russian synchronized swimming team performed their routine at the Olympics today. I won't spoil the results if you're waiting to watch the performance at another time, but you can check out the results here. Why is this noteworthy? Because their routine was set to Goblin's theme from Dario Argento's classic 1977 horror movie Suspiria. Suspiria. (And Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, but Suspiria!) The video above is not from today's performance, but from their qualifying routine that took place back in April that used the same music, so it's probably the same routine (or close). Watch and listen as Natalia Ischenko and Svetlana Romashina turn dainty, graceful water dancing into a horrific painted-doll opera of limbs. Synchronized, twisty, demented limbs. (via Trailers From Hell)

Caturday

Boing Boing reader Nicholas Longtin of Minneapolis has carefully 'shooped a series of photos from the 2012 Olympics to include his cats. I'll consider it complete when this shot's included. (via BB Flickr Pool)

A be-mulletted Eric Bana has some very useful advice for aspiring Olympic athletes

Before he played Nero the evil Romulan, the Hulk, and other dramatic roles in gut-wrenching movies like Munich and Black Hawk Down, Eric Bana put on silly wigs and did impressions as part of his actual, full-fledged comedy career. The only time he's come close to doing a comedy film was Funny People, which is only about comedy. We have yet to see Bana show off his chops, but in the meantime, we have this sketch from the Australian show he was on in the '90s, Full Frontal. It's even Olympic-themed! "Horsey!"

Happy Banaversary [The Hairpin]

The Unbearable Lightness Of Being British

Photo: Shimelle (cc)

The epithets attached to the Olympic opening ceremony piled up: eclectic, spectacular, monumental, shambolic, parochial, world-beating, hideous, embarrassing, filmic, and even inspiring. In its parts, the spectacle was all of these things because of the whole, which formed a gush of free-floating anxiety, a confession on a therapist’s couch.

Many commented on the ceremony’s focus on times past, in what viewers outside of Britain took as a flamboyant history lesson or, less charitably, as a statement of a country with no future. This was, however, no simple portrayal of past events, but a raid conducted to shore up a particular view that exists at this time; a malaise suffered here and now.

Read the rest

Divers making weird faces in midflight

TheFW has gathered together a gallery of striking photos of Olympic divers' faces, captured in midflight by various photographers working for Getty Images. It turns out that divers make some pretty weird faces.

This Is How Olympic Divers Really Look While Diving (via Making Light)

(Image: downsized, cropped thumbnail of a photo by Matt King for Getty Images)

Twitter apologizes for part of the Guy Adams/NBC/Olympics affair

Here's a followup on the earlier story about Twitter suspending a journalist's account after he tweeted the work email address of an NBC exec and asked people to write in complaining about NBC's broadcasts of the Olympics.

Twitter has confirmed that their own employees alerted NBC -- who are working in partnership with Twitter on the Olympics -- that the Independent's Guy Adams had tweeted the email address of an NBC executive, and encouraged NBC to fill in a form officially complaining about this.

Twitter's general counsel Alex Macgillivray -- whom I like and respect -- has apologized on behalf of Twitter for this, saying that it was a violation of company policy to "proactively" police users' communications.

However, Macgillivray defends the suspension of Adams's account (which has now been lifted), saying that Twitter can't be expected to know, a priori, whether complaints about private email addresses being published are legitimate. The suspension here turns on whether the NBC address Adams tweeted was "public" or "private." When Twitter receives a complaint saying that a private email has been posted, it suspends the user in question and then entertains the user's side of the story.

I can see the rationale for this: if you stipulate that disclosing a user's personal information can sometimes cause serious harm, there's an argument to be made for erring on the side of caution at the start of the process, and then investigating further. However, this has to be weighed against the fact that Adams's own correspondence with Twitter's accounts team show that he quickly made a good case that what he had done did not violate Twitter's policy -- that the address he'd published was already public -- and yet the company didn't rescind his ban until much later. If you're going to shoot first and ask questions later, later had best be sooner.

That said, we want to apologize for the part of this story that we did mess up. The team working closely with NBC around our Olympics partnership did proactively identify a Tweet that was in violation of the Twitter Rules and encouraged them to file a support ticket with our Trust and Safety team to report the violation, as has now been reported publicly. Our Trust and Safety team did not know that part of the story and acted on the report as they would any other.

As I stated earlier, we do not proactively report or remove content on behalf of other users no matter who they are. This behavior is not acceptable and undermines the trust our users have in us. We should not and cannot be in the business of proactively monitoring and flagging content, no matter who the user is — whether a business partner, celebrity or friend. As of earlier today, the account has been unsuspended, and we will actively work to ensure this does not happen again.

Our approach to Trust & Safety and private information (Thanks, Xeni!)

UPDATED: 17-y-o arrested in England for sending nasty tweet to losing Olympian

Update: I misread the article -- the same 17-y-o later sent some pretty dreadful threats to the Olympian in question: "i'm going to find you and i'm going to drown you in the pool you cocky twat your a nobody people like you make me sick," etc. My initial reading was that these were other peoples' harrassing tweets. #readingcomprehensionfail

Police in Weymouth, Dorset, England came to the home of a 17-year-old boy and arrested him, because he had retweeted an unpleasant sentiment to an Olympic athlete. The offending tweet? "You let your dad down i hope you know that." (This was a pretty dickish thing to tweet, as the athlete in question had previously dedicated his performance to his recently deceased father). The charge is "malicious communication." The law in question is the Communications Act 2003, Section 127(1)(a) ("a message that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character"). It's great to see that the spirit of the Olympics is alive and well: athleticism and international cooperation means that people are only allowed to say nice things or they go to jail. Just about the only thing worse than being a dick on Twitter? Being a loony authoritarian cop who arrests people for being a dick on Twitter. (via /.) Cory

Twitter does something really, really, really stupid - will they fix it?

Update: Twitter has officially apologized for part of its actions in this story.

You've heard by now that Twitter suspended Guy Adams, a journalist from the UK paper The Independent after Adams posted the email address of an NBC exec and urged his followers to send in email complaining about the network's (shamefully bad) handling of its Olympics broadcasts. Dan Gillmor in the Guardian has some context about how totally, boneheadedly stupid Twitter is being here, and what they need to do to fix it.

Adams has posted his correspondence with Twitter, which claims he published a private email address. It was nothing of the kind, as many, including the Deadspin sports blog, have pointed out. (Here's the policy, which Adams plainly did not violate, since the NBC executive's email address was already easily discernible on the web — NBC has a firstname.lastname@ system for its email, and it's a corporate address, not a personal one — and was published online over a year ago.)

What makes this a serious issue is that Twitter has partnered with NBC during the Olympics. And it was NBC's complaint about Adams that led to the suspension. That alone raises reasonable suspicions about Twitter's motives.

Now, Twitter has been exemplary in its handling of many issues over the past several years, including its (for a social network) brave stance in protecting user privacy; for example, it has contested warrantless government fishing expeditions. So I'm giving the service the benefit of the doubt for the moment, and hoping that this is just a foolish — if possibly well-meaning — mistake by a single quick-triggered Twitter employee. If so, Twitter should apologize and reinstate Adams' account immediately. If it does so, there's little harm done — and the company will have learned a lesson.

If Twitter doesn't reinstate Guy Adams, it's a defining moment

Guardian reconstructs Olympics basketball match in LEGO

If NBC's Olympics coverage were this adorable, I would not only watch it, I would forgive them for delaying it and pretending like it were live. Video: "Brick-by-brick men's basketball: USA v France" (Guardian.co.uk)

Sick of the Olympics already? Olwimpics browser blocker is your new best friend.

Greg Leuch at fffffat unveils the Olwimpics content blocker for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. Sweet Jesus, thank you. (via @gautamramdurai)

Olympics chief rings in the games

UK Olympics secretary Jeremy Hunt rang a bell Friday morning to herald the beginning of the summer games. The bell disintegrated, parts spinning into nearby bystanders.

The middle of nowhere

Mitt's international tour, day 1: "Say something so undiplomatic that your host sees no reason not to publicly insult you."

Olympic gold medals contain only 1% gold; would cost $25,000 if pure

The amount of gold in an Olympic gold medal has fallen to 1.34 percent, thanks to gold prices that recently peaked at $1,895 an ounce. At current prices, a pure 400g medal would cost about $25,000 to make, with a total bill of about $50m for the games.

"The last time the Olympic Games handed out solid gold medals was a hundred years ago at the 1912 Summer Games in Stockholm, Sweden," writes gold brokers Dillon Gage. "Gold medals were in fact only gold for eight years. The 1904 Olympics in St. Louis introduced the gold medal as the prize for first place."

The 2012 gold is 92.5 percent silver, 1.34 percent gold, and 6.16 copper, with IOC rules specifying that it must contain 550 grams of high-quality silver and 6 grams of gold. The resulting medallion is worth about $500. For the silver medal, the gold is replaced with more copper, for a $260 bill of materials.

The bronze medal is 97 percent copper, 2.5 percent zinc and 0.5 percent tin. Valued at about $3, you might be able to trade one for a bag of chips in Olympic park if you skip the fish.

Olympics: the alien invaders that destroy our cities


(Image by Smuzz)

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