Under the current rules, a woman can purposely anticipate the gun by up to 20 milliseconds, or one-fiftieth of a second, without getting called for a false start, the researchers say.
"This is unfair to the other women in the race because a medal can be won or lost in 20 milliseconds," said James Ashton-Miller, the Albert Schultz Collegiate Research Professor in the College of Engineering, the Institute of Gerontology and the School of Kinesiology.
The findings, published in the Oct. 19 edition of PLoS One (Public Library of Science), have implications beyond competitive sports. They provide insights into the fastest whole-body reaction times humans are capable of, and they could possibly inform automobile brake engineering, the researchers say.
Olympic officials use the same criteria to disqualify both male and female sprinters for jumping the gun. A "false start" occurs if an athlete applies an estimated 25 kilogram force to the starting blocks within a tenth of a second (100 milliseconds) of the gun. Why 100 milliseconds? That was thought to be the fastest possible human reaction time. It's a threshold largely based on a 1990 study of eight Finnish sprinters, none of whom were Olympians and none of whom were women.
Ashton-Miller and his colleagues set out to examine: the fastest possible reaction time of an Olympic athlete; whether elite male and female sprinters had similar reaction times; and whether the procedure used to measure reaction time was appropriate for both sexes.
The researchers analyzed the fastest reaction times of the 425 male and female sprinters who competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. They coupled this with previous studies in which they measured how rapidly men and women can push on a pedal using ankle extensor muscle strength.
It turns out that the threshold of 100 milliseconds is appropriate, the researchers found. Using statistical methods, they calculated that it is highly unlikely that a man can react faster than 109 milliseconds or a woman faster than 121 milliseconds at the Olympics. These numbers appear, at first, to show that men react faster than women. But Ashton-Miller and his colleagues don't believe that's the case.
Because men have more powerful leg muscles, they can more quickly develop the amount of force necessary for their movement to register. By requiring women to develop the same force as men on the start blocks, the current method makes women appear to have slower reaction times, Ashton-Miller said.
"This study suggests that the method used in the Olympic Games to detect a false start is male-oriented," Ashton-Miller said. "A woman who gets into the 100- to 120-millisecond window is really false starting, but under the present measurement method she wouldn't get penalized for that false start."
The researchers are calling for changes to be made in timing procedures before the London 2012 summer games.
"In terms of the Olympics, it's important for races to be fair. One way to address this would be to lower the force threshold for females," said David Lipps, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.
Male sprinters have 21 percent greater ankle extensor strength than female sprinters. As such, the researchers recommend reducing the allowable increase in force on the starting block for women to a 19.4 kilogram force.
And, Ashton-Miller suggests, perhaps future automobiles with brake-assist features should be notified whether the driver is male or female.
"The study suggests that in the future, automobiles should "know" whether it is a man or a woman that gets into the driver's seat," Ashton-Miller said. "If the auto "knows" a woman is driving, the sensitivity of the braking system should be adjusted to be greater so that women can react as fast as men as men can in an emergency."
Full text of paper: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0026141
James Ashton-Miller: https://me-web2.engin.umich.edu/pub/directory/bio?uniqname=jaam
David Lipps: http://me.engin.umich.edu/brl/dlipps.shtml
Nicole Casal Moore | Newswise Science News
Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung
High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg
Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.
This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences
27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
27.10.2016 | Life Sciences