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Physics professor charts the math behind the fastest human alive

April 07, 2010

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A theory put forth by Visiting Assistant Professor of Physics Ethan Siegel was cited in an Esquire profile of three-time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt.

Siegel created a graph showing that, mathematically, the Jamaican sprinter is 30 years ahead of the curve. Siegel measured the incremental progression of the 100-meter world record over the past 100 years and found Bolt to be performing 30 years beyond the expected capabilities of modern runners.

Esquire reported that Michael Johnson, the hero of the 1996 Olympic summer games, put it this way: “A runner capable of beating Bolt hasn’t been born yet.”

A theoretical astrophysicist, Siegel takes on all the mysteries the universe has to offer in his blog, Starts With A Bang! Topics of his recent posts range from the history of the universe to a rumination on how to drive mathematicians crazy with pies.

Update: A post at ESPN.com expands upon Siegel’s theory and puts Bolt’s achievement into historical context.