Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Physics of Ski Moguls

One of my favorite things about physics is that it is so widely applicable. Statistical mechanics can be applied to the stock market. Fluid flow can be used to model freeway traffic. The movement of large crowds of people around obstacles can be described using wave-function scattering techniques from quantum mechanics. Basically physics is applicable to almost everything.

Here's a great example (and one that's very applicable to life in Colorado) from Physics Today: ski moguls.
Contrary to what you might think, ski moguls actually tend to move uphill over time as new snow is deposited on their uphill slopes and removed from their downhill slopes. So while the snow is carried downhill by gravity, the moguls actually move uphill. On average, studies have shown that a mogul will move 10m uphill over the course of a ski season.

So the next time you're screaming down the slopes just remember that physics is all around you.


  1. That's really interesting Nick. Physics is applicable to so many things.

    Oh, and I really love to ski. (If only I had more time/money and lived somewhere like Colorado. Although Big Bear is close.)

  2. The real shame is that I live 30 min. from a ski resort to which I could buy a season pass for roughly $150 and I only go skiing once or twice a year. If I were planning on taking 8 years to get my PhD I would have so much more time to ski. :)

  3. " I could buy a season pass for roughly $150 and I only go skiing once or twice a year. "

    It turns out I have a $130 season pass to Disneyland, which is only 20 minutes away, and only go a couple times a year. (The relief society women and my wife make up for me though. :) )


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