One small reason that the speeds of Olympic Athletes might be increasing
When the Olympic runners take to their positions on the track later this week, they’ll crouch on the ground, ears pricked, and wait for the starting beep. That’s right, a beep. Not the pow of a gun, but an electronic tone, pumped through speakers, played by a “pistol” that’s not a pistol at all, but something more akin to an electronic instrument with only one key. The pistol itself is silent.
The electronic “pistol” of this summer’s Games was designed to overcome an astonishing problem: The speed of sound is too slow for Olympic athletes. That is to say, athletes far away from the starting pistol were delayed by the time it took for the sound to travel to them, and differences so tiny can matter in races in which the margins are so small. . . .