If you like sweets and physics, and hate dieting, as I do, you'll like the logic of an argument I'm about to make for eating as much cake as you want while you improve your athletic ability and speed.
Counterintuitive? Yes. And, given all the stuff in the press recently about how obese we Americans are, the argument is sacrilegious. But stick with me for a minute. I have Sir Isaac Newton on my side.
First, a little background: I really enjoy skiing—the cross-country, or Nordic kind. This has been a neat year for that sport in New England, with record snowfalls. I've been out two or three times a week, and it could be months before all the snow melts. I am always trying to go just a little faster each time I ski. It's a little game I play. I pretend I'm getting ready for the Olympics and try to improve my time.
Oh, I like downhill too, but it doesn't satisfy my urge for vigorous exercise. Plus, downhill can be dangerous. I never think about improving my time in that sport. I think "survival," even on the chairlift. You can really get smacked behind the knees by that chairlift when you try to sit down. Then there's the dismount, a complicated procedure. Once, I actually got my boot buckle tangled with my brother-in-law's and we skied down the chute like Siamese twins. Don't ask.
Nordic skiing, on the other hand, is relaxing as well as vigorous. It gets the heart pumping. And, there are no obnoxious teenage snowboarders to cut you off or run into you. But Nordic skiers generally watch their weight. They eat veggies and tofu and drink carrot juice. They're uncomfortable in an ice-cream parlor.
Downhill skiers, on the other hand, are the life of the party in a pastry shop. They stuff their cheeks and pockets with cupcakes and donuts and pies, and they don't feel the least bit guilty. Sure, many of them look like Homer Simpson, but they don't care. Downhill skiers know that potential energy helps heavier skiers go faster.
Well, that can work for Nordic skiers like me too.
F = ma is the key. The force is my arm and leg action to move my skis along the snow. Now, remember, I like to go fast. To do so, keeping the same body mass, I can push harder or go buy smaller, lighter skis and maintain the same pushing force. I'm too lazy to push harder and too cheap to buy the smaller skis.
I could change the coefficient of friction by using wax. Or, I could do the same by using roller elements on the bottom of the skis since rolling friction is less than sliding friction. I call that in-line skating, and it's just not me.
The best option: Gain weight!
The extra weight will compress the snow, ultimately causing it to melt more. I would then be using fluid friction, like ice skaters do, and fluid friction is lower than sliding or rolling friction.
And what if I go overboard on the sweets and start to get a potbelly? Even better. My colleague, aerospace engineer and senior editor Rick DeMeis, reminded me that the more streamlined shape from the potbelly could change my wind resistance, making me go even faster.
If I'm right, my thoughts could revolutionize the world of sports. You could someday see a Sumo wrestler beat out a marathoner in Nordic events.
If I've left something out, let me know. Otherwise, to paraphrase Marie Antoinette: "Let me eat cake."
Reach Teague firstname.lastname@example.org.