June 10, 2011

Alumnus analyzes physics of extreme sports

Dan West BA ’07 tells Outside magazineabout the physics of kayaking down waterfalls and how extreme athletes are testing the limits of the human body.

Research conducted by Dan West BA ’07 and Owen Kenton BA ’08 at Lewis & Clark has been tested in the realm of extreme sports.

West and Kenton studied the physics of kayaking down waterfalls during their Advanced Physics Lab at Lewis & Clark, hypothesizing that the human body could survive a drop around 186 feet.

Paddler Tyler Bradt matched that limit when he kayaked 186-foot Palouse Falls in Washington in 2009. The following video shows Bradt’s successful run.

West discusses his research and the limits of the human body in the May 2011 issue of Outside magazine.

West is heading to Carnegie Mellon to pursue a Masters of Science in Public Policy and Management at the university’s Adelaide, Australia campus. Kenton is a Peace Corps volunteer, teaching physics, math, and English in Tanzania.

West and Kenton’s project is just one example of the engaging and relevant work students undertake in their Advanced Physics Lab classes. Professors Michael Broide and Steven Tufte push students to develop projects tailored to their own interests. “They work so much harder when projects are truly theirs to direct and take ownership of,” Broide says. Learn about more student physics projects in the Chronicle.