Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Watch for MIT Swimming to Make Great Strides This Year

When the big brains at MIT swimming realized that strapping their swimmers to a big fat rocket wasn't going to help their relay qualify for nationals, they decided to look into upgrading their slipperiness.

Remember that Neverwet stuff?  You know, the superhydrophobic spray that Craig Lord wrote about that could take swimsuit technology to a whole new level by repelling water like Rain-X in full roid rage?

Well...  MIT just developed the next level of superhydrophobia.  Check out this excerpt from an article at extremetech.com:

Hydrophobic, as you have probably guessed, literally means “water fear.” There are hydrophobic substances that resolutely refuse to mix with water (such as oils and fats), and hydrophobic materials and coatings that prevent water from pooling on its surface. In scientific terms, hybrophobicity is caused by surfaces that disrupt the hydrogen bonding in water. So as to minimize the disruption to its molecular makeup, the water droplet pushes itself away from the surface to minimize its contact area, becoming a very tight droplet...

There are two ways to create a hydrophobic material: You either coat it with some kind of wax (oil, grease, or some other special, hydrophobic substance); or you use nanoengineering to create a special, nanopatterned textured surface. These nanopatterns, which are hydrophobic, take the form of little bumps or posts that are around 10 micrometers (10 micron, 10,000 nanometers) across. This kind of hydrophobic material is fairly well understood. The MIT breakthrough being discussed today starts with a nanopatterned hydrophobic material — and then coats it in a very fine layer of lubricant, massively increasing its hydrophobicity.

It turns out that the small gaps between the bumps/posts are capable of exerting just enough capillary force to hold an oil lubricant in place. The scientists simply had to dunk the nanopatterned material into a vat of lubricant, pull it out, and the lubricant remains fixed in the material. The nanopattern, plus the lubricant, results in a material that is 10,000 times more hybrophobic than the non-lubricated version. The pits are so small that it takes just half a teaspoon of lubricant to cover a square yard (0.8sqm) of the material. “Drops can glide on the surface,” Kripa Varanasi, the lead researcher, says. “These are just crazy velocities.” 

If you read the article you will realize that this could be a major find in how it will effect our energy industry.  I like to think it is not really something that will make a difference to the swimming community unless someone like Tony Stark decides he wants to be better than Phelps at being Phelps, but really, I am sure that there are people out there now with plans to be the first to make use of nanotech in the racing pool.

Honestly, I think that we need to give MIT's swimmers full license to play with this tech...  I mean, really, wouldn't you love to have that as a project in one of your classes?  I want to know:  what does it really do in regard to moving through water?; is it harmful?; how can we detect if someone is trying to cheat by using it?; would we want it on some parts of the body and not others?

I am pretty sure my breaststroke pull out would be pretty freakin amazing if I got the 10,000 times superhydrophobia effect.  That is of course, if I don't explode when I hit the water.  Knowing me and how good I am with technology, I would probably get this stuff on the bottom of my feet and spend a half hour just trying to get from the locker room to the blocks without sliding dangerously all across the wet pool deck.    That could make a swim meet real interesting real quick, right?

Maybe this is how we would spot the cheaters.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Legend of Kevin Carson

My only picture of Kevin Carson is exactly the way I want to remember him.

My teammate Kevin Carson was a fellow (Southwest) Missouri State Bear for only one season, and even though I hadn't spoken to him in over a decade, I will always consider him a good friend.  My heart breaks as I type this.  I attended Kevin's funeral yesterday.

Kevin was a friend to all, and would welcome anyone who wanted to chill and love life to be dealt into to a round of cards at his table.  Kevin was eternally goofy, had an infectious laugh and gave all of us on the team some great one liners I will never forget.  For a clue on how comfortable a friend he once was to me, here is an example:  he borrowed my clothes at Halloween and impersonated me for hours at one of the best parties I have ever been to.  I wouldn't let just anyone do that.  With Kevin I knew that it was all in fun.

Athletes can leave the sport of swimming in many ways.  Some are bitter and never want to swim again.  Some wish they had four more years of eligibility. Kevin went out in a very unique way that had a profound effect on my life.  Carson was injured the year before, during his freshman season at Arkansas, which happened to be the year U of A announced they were terminating the men's program.  Both knees were shot and he had put on a lot of weight while he spent months in a wheelchair before he transferred to swim with us.  Kevin was not enjoying swimming much during that one year he swam for the Bears.  From what I have heard, he went to Coach Steck at the end of the season and basically said, "Coach, you and I both know I am probably not ever going to get back into form.  I plan to swim again next year and waste your scholarship money unless you give it to Klosterman."

This was Kevin Carson in a nutshell.  He knew my family was struggling financially and he decided that if he was gonna hang up his suit, he was gonna do it in a way that made something good come of it.  Kevin was a great friend.  Coach Steck pulled me in that spring and doubled my scholarship heading into my sophomore season.  I always thought it was just because I had earned it by swimming fast.  I didn't know about what Kevin had done until later in my career.

We have all lost friends, and if you read this blog, you probably have a special bond with some of your past teammates as well, but that is not why I am sharing this at The Swim Brief.  I am posting this here because there is a chance you have already heard of Kevin Carson and never knew it, and I want you to associate my good friend with this story you have probably heard on deck:

In the spring of 1992 Kevin Carson was the lead off leg of Parkway Swim Club's 400 Free Relay in the final heat of the last event of the Region VIII (Sectional) Championships at the University of Arkansas.  When Kevin took his mark on that old style aluminum block he did not realize that his ring finger had wrapped around the lip under the front of the block.  When Kevin landed in the water the end of his finger didn't go with him.  It had become wedged and was torn completely off.

Kevin is the guy who got his finger chopped off on the starting block.  I have heard that story on deck more than once.  Maybe you have too.

I wasn't there, but someone told me that his finger had to be retrieved from it's float in the middle of the lane. It was reattached and the only way you would ever have known it had happened is that when Kevin dealt a deck of cards or counted dollar bills it was noticeable that the finger didn't bend.  He stuck it out like someone sticking out their pinky to be fancy when they drink champagne.  You know, cause the higher you stick your pinky up, the fancier you are, right?  Before I heard the story I guess I just thought he had a really fancy way of counting his cash.

So now you know... that guy who got his finger chopped off on the starting block,  he was a real guy.  A really great guy.  And I hope that every time you are taking your mark on a block, or teaching someone a proper start, your mind turns to Kevin Carson just for a brief second and it makes you smile, and maybe makes you a little glad they don't make starting blocks the way they used to.

Kevin, my good friend, you will be missed.