It’s hard to imagine running almost 35 kilometers
an hour just using my own two feet. Like… that’s car speed, not human speed. But that’s how fast Jesse Owens ran during
the 100 meter race at the 1936 Olympics which he won in 10.3 seconds, matching the world
record speed at the time. The upcoming film Race is about Owens, an
African-American runner who earned a spot at the Olympics in Nazi Germany and then won
four gold medals, even though the Nazis tried their best to stop him from competing at all
because of his race. It’s been 80 years, and at 9.58 seconds,
Jamaican Usain Bolt’s world record from 2009 has only shaved 7% off of Owens’s time. But in other sports, like swimming and pole
vaulting, the records have improved by a lot more. So, why the difference? Well, one part of the reason these records
get broken is that some humans are just better at sprinting or swimming or pole vaulting. But another big factor in breaking world records
is science: namely, the materials athletes use to help them do their thing. And some
sports just involve more of that science than others. Sprinting, for example, doesn’t have much
of it. The physics of the 100 meter dash is pretty
straightforward: you run along a track, and try to travel 100 meters as fast as you can. Your speed mainly depends on how hard you
can push off the ground, and how quickly you can do the pushing. Runners move a little faster these days because
track surfaces are a lot firmer Owens ran on ash and modern running shoes help with
grip. But anything else is basically down to tiny
improvements in running techniques especially ones that let sprinters leave their feet on
the ground for shorter amounts of time. That, plus incredibly talented and dedicated
athletes. So that’s why the world record for the 100-meter-dash
isn’t that much shorter than it was 80 years ago. There aren’t many materials involved
that we can improve or re-engineer. It’s just the human body doing its thing. Researchers think we’re actually closing
in on what they predict to be the fastest a human could possibly run 100 meters, based
on the limits of what our muscles and joints can do — which turns out to be 9.27 seconds. Swimmers, on the other hand, have gotten much
faster over the years. In 1936, the world record for the 100 meter
freestyle swim, held by American Peter Fick was 56.4 seconds. In 2009, César Cielo of
Brazil swam it in 46.91 seconds an improvement of almost 17%, and a record that still holds
today. Part of that has to do with improvements in
swimming techniques, but a lot of it also has to do with technology specifically, the
materials used in swimsuits. They’re important because there’s a big
difference between running and swimming. When you run, you hit atoms and molecules
in the air that do hold you back that’s what we call the drag force. When you swim, water molecules are doing the
same thing. But water is a lot more dense than air meaning that you crash into way more
molecules, and the drag force is much stronger. So anything that reduces that drag can help
you go much faster which is exactly what special swimsuits called supersuits are designed to
do. They’re made of fabrics meant to reduce
drag, like by having little grooves that let the water flow around you more smoothly, so
you move faster. To make you even more streamlined, the suits
also compress certain parts of your body, basically turning you into a human tube. Supersuit technology made swimmers so much
faster that the International Swimming Federation decided to ban them in 2010 — but by then,
swimmers had broken more than 130 world records while wearing them. The new rules restrict things like what kinds
of fabrics swimsuits can be made of and how much skin they can cover. But companies are already building better
suits that follow those rules. So when it comes to swimming, humanity probably has plenty
of record-breaking left to do. Then there’s pole vaulting another sport
with slashed records, and another one that depends a lot on advances in materials science. In 1936, George Varoff, an American held the
record for the highest-ever vault, at 4.43 meters. French athlete Renaud Lavillenie set
today’s record in 2014 when he vaulted 6.16 meters 39% higher. Unlike running and swimming, pole vaulting
is a lot more complicated than just getting from point A to point B as fast as you can. Instead, you take a running start while holding
a pole, then you stick that pole in the ground and use it to fling yourself over as high
a bar as possible. The pole acts like a long, thin spring, and
helps turn your sideways momentum from running into vertical momentum when you jump. So the springier the pole, the higher you’ll
fly. In the first half of the 20th century, athletes
used bamboo poles, since they were relatively light and flexible. They did tend to break,
though which was both dangerous and a quick way to ruin a good jump. Around the 1940s, some athletes started to
switch to steel or aluminum poles, because they had about the same springiness but didn’t
break as much. Then, in the 50s and 60s, everything changed
when companies started to figure out how to make good poles out of fiberglass plastic
reinforced with glass fibers. The plastic makes the poles flexible, and
the glass makes them strong you can bend some fiberglass poles almost entirely back on themselves,
and they won’t break. Which meant that athletes could jump much
higher. Men’s pole vaulting records slowed way down
by the early 1990s, and the record for the highest jump has only been broken once since
1994. So it’s possible that we’re approaching
the limit of how high humans can jump using fiberglass poles. But who knows! There could also be some material
out there that we haven’t discovered yet that makes a better pole. Thank you for watching this episode of SciShow,
which was brought to you and inspired by the movie Race, starring Stephan James and Jason
Sudeikis. Focus Features is releasing Race nationwide in theaters on February 19th, and
there’s a link to the trailer in the description.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. Sprinter could smash the records if the silly tech controls were loosen. "Disabled" runners are faster than Bolt as they carbon fibre specialist legs.

  2. I think that enetering a vault by a Pole should be called pole-vaulting.
    Everyone (Germans) knows we make exceptional thieves.
    Maybe there should be World Championships in opening vaults and locks?

  3. What if we had a sport of "who can travel 100 meters the fastest using whatever except for energy sources"?

  4. Does pole vaulting factor in differences in local gravity when calculating records?

    Because that could potentially make a huge difference

  5. Also a lot of records were set on drugs.The pole vault could have gone even higher but Sergey Bubka would only ever break it by a centimetre at a time for bonus moneys.

  6. I think you guys neglected a very important component; chemicals which have improved dramatically in recent decades. To my knowledge probably all Olympic sprinters for example are on many performance enhancing drugs including but not limited to the latest anabolic steroids, HGH and amphetamines and probably many other more exotic compounds. And the existence and use of these chemicals have changed greatly and helped push the records higher.

  7. Today i participated in the (almost) world record nerf war. We went for the world record and were like 20 people off the record.

  8. I’m a swimmer and I can definitely say the reason why everyone is so much faster is because of technique, not so much the suits

  9. I️ had a friend in highschool who went to the Youth Olympics in China a few years ago, and he placed 4th world wide in Pole Vaulting. He represented Canada.

  10. I'm a 100 yd Freestyle swimmer and I can tell you that point that the writers are trying to make in this video is completely BOGUS; This video has NO IDEA what its talking about in terms of swimming.

    "High Tech Swimsuits" can only shave off tenths of a second in the 100 Free at best – Since 1936, we've improved TONS of other facets of the sport that directly improve our times without regard to wearing a "Special Suit" :

    1) We started competing with Goggles during the Olympics in 1976. That allowed us to have a more hydrodynamic profile because we weren't facing forward the entire time and having our face be a giant wall to catch water. This made HUGE leaps in time dropoffs

    2) We also stopped using the S pull Stroke technique in the 1980's – Any advantage of the S-Pull was shown to be fundamentally flawed because it was based on a 2-dimensional analysis of the stroke and didn't take account of body roll when swimming. Again, HUGE drop in time.

    3) Flip Turns weren't used in the Olympics until the 1956 Melbourne Games – when done correctly, you can drop off 2 seconds on each wall doing this as opposed to grabbing the wall with your hand and pulling your feet up to push off.

    4) Hair – Mark Spitz was swimming with a full head of hair and a handlebar mustache in 1972. You'd be hard pressed to find ANY Swimmer sporting facial hair in a championship meet now. Swim Caps also were not a norm in competition by 72 also.

    5) Nutrition – Have you seen how HUGE Cesar Cielo is compared to photos of Peter Fick at the Berlin Olympics? I mean cmon, the dude is MASSIVE. Upper Body strength is major a contributing factor to Freestyle. It's why massive guys like Cesar Cielo destroy guys like Michael Phelps because he is built to be a sprinter. These guys bulk up in such a way that it allows to grab water and pull themselves over it that much quicker. Swimmers do not "Move" water, they anchor themselves in the water, and haul their body over it like a ladder.

    If you ever saw where a swimmer put their arm in during a stroke in relation to the a buoy on a lane line, you'd see that it CATCHES the water and it stays there while the swimmer pulls themselves over the catch. The stronger you are, the more quickly you can do this and the more forceful the power is to propel you forward.

    All 5 of these things dropped MASSIVE chunks of time off of the world records set in 1936 than ANY contribution ever made by some "High Tech Suit". Swimming is NOT a sport of technological advantages by any means – You can't just put on a fancy swimsuit and improve your time by a full second in the 100 Free. Next time do your research.

  11. It’s great that you want to break the pole vaulting record, but how high can a human fall from and still be able to get back up and walk away unscathed and in good enough condition to compete again at peak levels in a relatively short time?
    I’d say around 10 meters would probably be the max if not less. Humans are large, heavy, surprisingly aerodynamic, and tend to get hurt falling from large heights.

  12. Fast skins (what he calls a super suit) have majorly improved swimming, but training techniques have also greatly improved, even just in the last 20 years. Every year coaches have new ways to train, causing swimmers to drop time faster than ever.

  13. Thought you were gonna talk abouth the east european «woman» records not going to be beaten ever because the woman was juiced up and basically a man

  14. usain bolt isnt much faster than jessie owens? i dont think u realize that .02 seconds is life or death in the sprinting world. im a mid and long distance runner but i can sprint too. .02 seconds is a LOT of time in track and field.

  15. Pity that Jessie Owen was the chosen athlete. Granted he and Jim Thorp wrote he book on Olympics, but Joe Lewis wrote the book on sportsmanship. Something much much rarer and close to totally lacking in modern billionaire glof pros…

  16. I'm tired of regulations. Let's just push humans to the limit. Stop holding people back. Let people achieve the unheard of.

  17. Correction on the pole vault part:
    Actually carbon fiber poles are sometimes used at higher levels (at least in my experience as a pole vaulter) because of their tendency to rebound the vaulter more aggressively when compared with fiberglass poles. But you need to be very fast to make any use out of it… And they're expensiveeeeee

  18. they also ran on different surfaces. jesse owens would be with .2 seconds of bolt on the same surface. owens ran on cinders which is more like sand and bolt runs on a rubber coated engineered surface for optimal speed

  19. The most significant piece of technology for the improvement in swimming times was goggles. It meant you could go from training 10 hours per week to 30. Certainly in middle distance and distance running the improvement had come mostly from improved training methods, for instance when Bannister broke 4 for the mile he was doing it using almost exclusively interval training and had no real weight lifting supplementation.

  20. Could you find someone who could speak a little quicker so that it becomes completely unintelligible instead of almost so.

  21. "Why are some records hard to break?" Because those hard records have variables that havent changed in decades while the other ones have had variable changed several times. I think its like a condoned cheating in regards to the people in the past breaking those records. Say I broke a record to day throwing a ball 100 meters but 500 years from now they allow bio-mechanical athletes, part man and part machine, to throw balls and they throw the ball 500 meters each time. This is an exaggeration but it a huge problem we dont recognize athletes of several decades no relying on technology.

  22. If you think about it, the only way we can tell human potential is to make these sports naked. This way, no one gets an advantage.

  23. I would love to see Owens and Bolt race each other with the same equipment, same track and everything.

  24. I’d be really interested to see the maximum performance of top athletes with performance enhancing drugs vs normally, just for the sake of human limits regardless of rules

  25. Improving a 10.5 second time by 7% is INSANE, someone doesn't know much about racing… Like at all… It can be seen in video games, the best example of racing is bhopping on the CS games. If you were to complete a map in 10.5 seconds and someone else completes it in 9.5 seconds your time got DESTROYED, I've personally tried beating times only to be .001 seconds slower than them. When you get to the very limits of how fast you can do something, even half a second can be a crazy amount of time to cut off.

  26. those "super" swim suits really are not that good, I can swim 100m in 56 seconds without them. It is all down to swimmers just getting better.

  27. IT was also Americans trying to stop Owens from participating. Fun fact: he didn't get a handshake from the American president at the moment, while the other athletes got invited to the White House to be congratulated, Owens wasn't.

  28. 35 km/h? You're an American, at least put the text up there in Freedom units for your countrymen. Americans constitute the majority of the population of the Anglosphere countries, it's silly not to use units that the majority of the Anglosphere population uses. It's fine if you want to use km/h too, but we never use km/h in the U.S., and even the Brits don't use km/h in their everyday life. They use mph just like we do. Nobody, including Hank, in the U.S. or UK has an intuitive sense of what km/h means. Stop being silly and present both.

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