Wednesday, May 12

The I. E. Block Community Lecture:
Some Mathematical Insights into Car and Bicycle Racing

6:30 PM-7:30 PM
Room: Capitol Center/South
Chair: Gilbert Strang, SIAM President, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Throughout his life the speaker has been involved in either car racing or BMX bicycle racing, either as participant, spectator, or supportive father. On numerous occasions his mathematical knowledge helped him to better understand a particular challenge or problem. This understanding, in turn, often led to a satisfactory solution; other times it merely led to a better feel for the related phenomenon. This talk will not focus on mathematical modeling, but on using simple mathematical principles to explain commonly held beliefs and dispel some fairly common misconceptions. Topics that will be discussed include: fair lane assignment in BMX bicycle racing, a mathematical justification that dragsters are travelling faster than their recorded speed, interesting stories and facts concerning gear ratios, misconceptions about tire and wheel geometry, and why dragsters must spin their wheels in order to win.

Richard A. Tapia
Computational and Applied Mathematics
Rice University

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MMD, 2/2/99