ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Can you swim faster in water or syrup?

Updated on April 7, 2012

The syrup versus water dilemma defeated even Sir Isaac Newton. He reasoned that the syrup being more sticky or viscous than water would slow the swimmer down.

That's quite a natural line of reasoning. Picture how much energy it would take to swim in tar versus water. The geological record gives evidence of just how hard this is in the Le Brea tar flats where the remains of countless struggling animals have been preserved.

Recently an experimenter in the States decided to test Newton's conclusions. The results were surprising.

The answer is more subtle than you first think. Have you ever watched the smoke rising from a lit cigarette. The smoke rises straight up for a few centimeters and then breaks up into swirls and eddies. This is called turbulence. The wing of a jet or the chassis of a speeding Porche create air patterns behind them.

Predicting turbulence is difficult. It's known as a chaos phenomenon. Boeing and Airbus spend millions testing jet bodies in wind tunnels because the turbulence created burns more fuel than moving the jet at 600 miles per hour.

Watch boats as they move through the water. Efficient boats are designed to create as small waves as possible. The wave pattern behind the boat tells you more about how much fuel the boat is burning than the speed of the boat.

Now look at a fish moving through the water. The body is tear shaped and the fins tapers to fine points. The flow of water over the fish is called laminar flow because the shape of a fish's body has evolved over time to create very little turbulence. The flow of water over a fishes body is laminar. The flow of water or syrup over a human's body is turbulent.

There's another fly in the syrup - each fluid has a density. Swimmers do swim faster in salt water than in fresh water. That's because salt water is denser than fresh water. The swimmer doesn't sink as deep in the denser salt water. Since more of his body is out of the water she experiences less resistance and hence is faster. Humans can't swim in air because it's not dense enough. To propel the swimmer forward he needs to have something to push against.

So the question can be refined to, "Can you swim faster in water or a syrup of the same density?"

Back to the experiment. A maple syrup manufacturer kindly offered to donate enough syrup to fill a swimming pool to answer the water versus syrup riddle. No dice - environmental regulations prohibited disposing of the syrup in the municipal drains. An alternative syrup was found with just twice the viscosity of water. The resulting fluid looked oddly like snot. Professional swimmers were enlisted to carry out trials.

The final result - you will swim just as fast in light syrup as in water. The humans shape is so inefficient swimmer that the turbulence created outweighs the effect of the viscosity.



Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • EZ Swim Fitness profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 5 years ago from Southern Wisconsin

      Fascinating discussion. I have never heard this before. You nailed it - the human body shape is very inefficient in the water - most people don't recognize this fact.

      Voted up - I love research and greatly appreciate you sharing this knowledge.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)