Today, we take a deep dive into the science behind diving and related concepts. Towards the end, we also have a detailed analysis of Olympic diving. Have a good read.

So, have you ever seen one of those professional Olympic divers spinning around 10 times in the air before hitting the water surface? Well, diving is a skill that can only be mastered over multiple years of training. But what is so special about it? Which science concept is hidden behind this phenomenon? All these questions are to be answered in today’s blog.

Let’s start from the very basics. In case you remember your high school physics lectures, the formula for pressure is force/Area, which basically means that pressure is directly proportional to force and indirectly proportional to the area of contact. Let’s better understand this with a basic example. Say you have to cut an apple into small pieces. It is very obvious that you will take a blunt/sharp knife and you will be good to go. A sharp knife helps you apply a huge amount of pressure on the apple because the area of contact between the knife and the apple is lesser.


The same concept is applied in diving as well. Diving with your hands joint together, above your head, is the ideal diving stance. When you dive with your hands above your head, your hands will decrease the area of contact by a considerable amount, resulting in an increased amount of pressure applied by your body. This concept is very closely related to the knife example explained in the previous paragraph. Just consider yourself a knife, and consider the water body an apple, that you are cutting through.


While diving may be a fun activity, it can be pretty dangerous as well. Diving should never be done without professional guidance as the wrong stance can often lead to major injuries. Going back to the pressure, area relation, if you dive from a high point with your chest/stomach parallel to the water body, then the area of contact would be higher, and your body will not be able to apply and pressure to the water surface; In fact, in such cases, the water surface would literally act similar to a concrete surface leading to death threatening injuries.


Now that we know the basic stance, let us consider the details. Diving on a professional level does not mean that you just have to jump in the water from a high point. Professional divers competing in big tournaments have to perform various types of stunts. For e.g., performing a double tuck within a small distance between the jumping point and the water surface. Now, the question arises that how the divers control their body in such a perfect way that they are able to rotate multiple times within a few seconds.

So, a normal diver would simply straighten his body as soon as he jumps. But, the Olympic divers have to rotate multiple times within the same time frame. So, what do they do differently? Well, they simply try to keep their hands and legs as close to each other as possible. This might be difficult to understand, so refer to the image below-


Now, the moment of inertia comes into play. Moment of inertia can be defined as the rotational inertia of a body. Any object rotating under the influence of gravity has a particular moment of inertia and a particular angular velocity. It depends upon the positioning of masses, as well as the axis of rotation. So, even for a constant mass, the moment of inertia CAN vary, depending upon the placement of the masses. Angular velocity varies indirectly with the moment of inertia. Now, if we apply this concept to diving, it would all make sense. This is exactly why Olympic divers try to minimize the mass on the edges, thus having more angular velocity, and doing multiple rotations before they even land on the water surface. You may refer to the image, once again.


I would like to conclude that due to their amazing fitness, and scientific knowledge, Olympic divers are able to achieve multiple backflips within a few seconds. I hope this knowledge helps you in one way or another. Thanks for reading.

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