Science of Surfing
Reported September 2009
LA JOLLA, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Just a few more weeks to enjoy the warm weather … and some schools are taking advantage of their students' love for the beach -- to give them a little lesson in physics. Some students are getting more than they bargained for.
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It looks like fun -- the sun, the surf … but did you know there’s a science behind it?
Geophysicist David Sandwell is a surfer as well as a professor at Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif. He’s using what he knows out on the water to get kids psyched about physics.
“We first look at how waves are generated and then how they propagate across the ocean, and how they land here on the beach," Dr. Sandwell told Ivanhoe.
They use GPS instruments connected to surfers as well as the surfboards to conduct research projects.
“I think the biggest surprises are related to how data is collected and how you do an experiment, how you deal with numbers," Dr. Sandwell said.
They find out what it takes to make a good wave, including a theory they test out -- that the speed of the waves is the square root of the depth of the water when the waves break.
“I tell the students that once they take this class, it may ruin their surfing experience," Dr. Sandwell said. "They’ll not only be thinking about surfing, but they’ll be thinking about where the waves are coming from, why they come in sets and how fast they can go.”
The American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society, the American Association of Physics Teachers, and the American Physical Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:
Prof. David T. Sandwell
Scripps Inst. of Oceano
La Jolla, CA 92093-0225
American Geophysical Union
Washington, DC 20009-1277
American Meteorological Society
Boston, MA 02108-3693
American Association of Physics Teachers
College Park, MD
James Riordon, Media Relations
American Physical Society
College Park, MD
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