Field of Science


There was an amazing article up on Wired today about the America's Cup. It reminded of just how cool competitive sailing is. I wrote about sailing upwind in 2009 before the last America's Cup race and I mentioned a revolutionary solid wing multihull boat created by team Oracle. That boat was in fact as fast as promised and it won the race and by doing so team Oracle won the right to dictate the rules of the next America's cup. What they did was create the America's Cup World Series of standarized fixed wing catamaran sailing boats (you can read more about the entire thing in the Wired article). These boats are super fast and super intense. The America's Cup World Series is the water equivalent of Formula 1, but instead of crashes there are capsizes. Well, actually there are crashes too. Here is a hectic highlight real of these boats racing in the first ever event a few days ago in Cascais, Portugal.
Modern sailing is a paradoxical mix of elements. The boats are designed with advanced knowledge of physics and constructed of carbon fiber, yet they are powered by the simplicity of the wind. I think there is an appeal to working with nature to accomplish work rather than fighting against it. Working with nature always seems to be the most graceful option. In space travel rather than firing rockets to propel ships it is advantages to use gravitational assists by swinging by planets. And then of course there are solar sails in space too. The Japanese IKAROS satellite recently successfully unfurled itself in space and is now being pushed by photons on a unique journey. If you think about it astronomy and sailing go together.

1 comment:

  1. I've just taken up sailing as a hobby! I read all about it online, got an online certification just for the hell of it, and I couldn't stop thinking about it, so I bought a cheap boat ($950). I've only successfully sailed it once out of three outings so far. The last two were too windy. I'm going to take it out again in a few weeks. Coincidentally (regarding your sailing and astronomy comment), I'm taking my telescope with me too... I'm going to a fairly unpopulated beach on the coast, so it should be less Bortle-y than it is here in Austin.


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