lets say the winning times for a race get faster and faster each year, after each year the times get fast by a little less then the year before because it is harder to go faster when you are going the fastest u can…or something. can u please explain this concept to me
Jef is correct, but just to add onto it a little bit, I’ll talk about automobiles and aircraft.
Machines are a lot like people. They need food, and they need oxygen in order to do anything. Take the good ol’ internal combustion engine in your car. It needs fuel, which we can give as much as we want if we have an infinite supply. But it has to aspirate (suck in) air into the cylinder, where it then has to mix with the gasoline which has to have been turned into an aerosol (gas). Both the gasification and aspiration take time. Then you combust the fuel together, which presses down the piston, which eventually drives the crankshaft, which eventually makes it to the axles, then to the wheels and tires themselves, which finally makes you go. So actually accelerating is a long process.
But let’s say that you’re in the upcoming Indy 500, trying to reach 250 mph. Any engine is eventually going to be limited by (1) speed of aerosolizing the fuel (2) speed and quantity of air (3) speed of combustion (4) energy lost to friction and heat (5) the weight of the engine and entire drivetrain itself.
It’s nearly a exponential increase in necessary power once you’ve reached those speeds. Imagine that you’re out on the track, and you’re running at a jog, it’s then easy to break into a sprint. But then you’re in a sprint race, and you’re neck-in-neck with the girl next to you… how much do you have to push yourself to go just that tiny bit faster (if you can)?
It comes down to efficiency. For automobiles and aircraft, it’s basically those 5 things listed above (obviously more, but those are the basics) that control maximum speed, and how hard it is to go just a little faster when you’re already going fast. For humans, its the efficiency of (1) our body’s conversion of sugar fuel into energy (2) our muscle fiber’s ability to “twitch,” which is a genetic thing that can be improved on through training technique, but is still essentially always going to be your limiting factor (3) your lungs’ ability to respirate oxygen to carbon dioxide and expel it (4) your cardiovascular system’s ability to deliver this oxygen to your muscles (5) production of adrenaline (6) your body’s ability to have done all of this before you begin to burn lactic acid in your muscles, which will then tear them down very quickly.
The secret to speed – even among military aircraft – isn’t brute force, it’s efficiency, and efficiency is something that will always have an upper limit, until you break into a new technology. Maybe Indy cars will start running on electric motors, like the Tesla Roadster. The brand new US F-22 fighter can “supercruise” which means basically going faster than the speed of sound without trying. Its turbojet just blurs along as it normally would. In the past, fighters needed afterburners, where jet fuel was directly injected into the back of the exhaust, which made it kind of like a rocket (a poor analogy, but close enough). Before THAT, when Chuck Yeager first broke the sound barrier, he DID need a rocket. He didn’t break the sound barrier in a plane, he broke the sound barrier in a rocket plane. When those rockets burned out, he was a glider. But engine technology made a few jumps (they call them “generations” of technology) and today, they blow away Chuck Yeager and yawn about it.
Its us squishy humans who have true boundaries that will and can never be exceeded, put on us by Mother Nature, or God, or evolution, whatever you want to call it — the human muscle is the human muscle, the human body the human body, and it can only go so fast. Going faster when you’re going fast… that’s hard.
by: Earth Man
on: 24th May 10