Swim Just As Fast In Syrup As In Water

posted: 04/11/12
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As seen in "MythBusters: Swimming in Syrup."
Christoph Wilhelm/Getty Images


Explanation: Swimmers have pondered the ills of poor water quality and its role in speed-reduction for years. In 2003, researchers at the University of Minnesota finally put this mystery to the test, finding that swimming in syrup wouldn't really slow a swimmer's progress. But the MythBusters decided to "go for the goo" themselves.

Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage compared the time it took to paddle from one end of the pool to the other, both in water and a syrup-like guar gum mixture. While the tests went swimmingly, the results were surprising. Slogging through a pool of sticky stuff would add only a small amount of time to your personal best. Turns out, the physical energy a swimmer uses actually matters more than the thickness of the "water." This phenomenon, called theoretical square law, means a swimmer's motion is determined more by the speed of arm and leg movements than by the fluid he's moving through.

So, even if you're swimming in syrup, you could move your arms faster to make up for the drag. You aren't likely to break any speed records simply because you'll tire faster, but you can still get the job done.

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