Winter Sports Science As a former downhill ski instructor and retired astronaut, Chris Hadfield is uniquely qualified for this game about winter sports.
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Winter Sports Science

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Winter Sports Science

Winter Sports Science

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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While Heather and Katie prepare for the final round, it's time for our special guest to take on his ASK ME ANOTHER Challenge. Let's bring back astronaut Chris Hadfield.



EISENBERG: Hey, Chris, how's it going?

HADFIELD: Excellent, thank you very much.

EISENBERG: Very good. So, Chris, before you were an astronaut, you were a downhill ski instructor.

HADFIELD: That's true.

EISENBERG: You had to give it up for a while while you were being an astronaut because NASA didn't want you to break a bone.

HADFIELD: And the nearest hill to Houston is 850 miles away.

EISENBERG: Right - makes it difficult.

HADFIELD: Yeah, it's a flat place. But, yeah, actually, when you're training for a space flight, there's a whole long list of stuff that they do not let you do. And downhill ski racing is one of them, yeah.

EISENBERG: Are you back to skiing now?

HADFIELD: I am. I ski pretty regularly. Yeah, I used to downhill race. And I love it. I love the control of speed and three dimensions and all of those things. I think the racing I did as a kid helped me become a fighter pilot, a test pilot and an astronaut. And I'm loving being able to go back and ski now that I'm no longer flying in space.

EISENBERG: Yeah, and the bones are back. Your skeleton healed.

HADFIELD: My skeleton healed, yeah. I'm dense.

EISENBERG: You're dense. So we have a quiz for you about winter sport science.


EISENBERG: And if you do well enough Kristi Little (ph) from Nova Scotia, Canada, is going to win an ASK ME ANOTHER Rubik's Cube.


HADFIELD: All right, Kristi, I'm here for you.

EISENBERG: So here's your first question. It's about your specialty, downhill skiing. True or false - Olympic alpine skiers can experience more G's of force than astronauts during a shuttle launch.


EISENBERG: Yeah, that is true. Yeah, well done.


EISENBERG: You feel confident, OK?

HADFIELD: So far, so good - one for one.

EISENBERG: Yeah, Olympic skiers experience 3.5 G's while they're making sharp turns. Shuttle launches go up to 3 G's.

HADFIELD: Maximum three up and down, that's it, yep. (Unintelligible) uses higher. (Unintelligible) use, in a bad case, can go to 22 G, which is not a good day. One crew had to survive that on their way back. But, yeah, the shuttle was pretty gentle because it had wings - about 3 G maximum, yep.

EISENBERG: But for a more sustained time than obviously a skier.

HADFIELD: Yeah, yeah it last several minutes. And it's like three people lying on top of you. So it afterwhile just gets hard to push your chest forward and breathe. But it's worth the ride.


EISENBERG: Yes, indeed. Up until the 1980s, ski jumpers held their skis parallel while they were in the air. Now ski jumpers hold their skis in a different shape. What is the shape? And do you know why?

HADFIELD: Well, they spread them out to the side like a great big V. And it's because you get better aerodynamics. You get more lift. And you can make your body the shape of an airfoil, so you can go way further.

EISENBERG: Yeah, we didn't have all of that there.


EISENBERG: But I know that's correct. In ice hockey - and as a Canadian, I will ask this properly - in hockey, when performing a slap shot, where do you aim your stick to strike first - the puck or the ice?

HADFIELD: The ice.

EISENBERG: Right, you went for the right answer. Do you know why?

HADFIELD: So that you hit the puck.


EISENBERG: I would accept that, yeah. Yeah, hitting the ice first causes the hockey stick to flex and store potential energy which causes a slingshot-like effect. And when the energy is released, it causes the puck to fly further and faster.



EISENBERG: Yeah, Leaf fan?


EISENBERG: Well, you know, what I have to say to that - flames, flames, flames. How is the ice used in Olympic curling prepared differently than the ice for skating?

HADFIELD: It's dimpled. It has like sort of a pebbly surface as opposed to dead smooth like it would for people on skates.

EISENBERG: That is exactly correct, yes.


EISENBERG: If you did not know, water is sprayed on top, which freezes these pebbles and allows the curling stones to glide more easily over them. Have you ever curled?

HADFIELD: I have curled. I'm Canadian.

EISENBERG: You're a Canadian, yes.

HADFIELD: Yes, I have curled.

EISENBERG: And do you enjoy it?

HADFIELD: I do. Yeah, it's fun. You can have a beer while you're competing.

EISENBERG: Yeah, I was going to say. Do you do it sober?

HADFIELD: It's one of those rare Olympic sports that you can do while drinking beer.

EISENBERG: That's right.

HADFIELD: Yes, it's a great sport.

EISENBERG: There are so many ways to achieve Olympic gold.


EISENBERG: Congratulations, Chris Hadfield. You, of course, did amazing. And you and listener Kristi Little each win an ASK ME ANOTHER Rubik's Cube.

HADFIELD: Yay, Kristi. All right.


EISENBERG: Thanks so much for playing with us. Give it up one more time for Chris Hadfield.


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