Science behind the Olympic figure spinning

Watching the Winter Olympics can be mesmerizing... especially when the figure skaters spin and twirl at a dizzying speed!

Posted: Feb 17, 2018 1:17 PM

SOUTH KOREA - Watching the Winter Olympics can be mesmerizing... especially when the figure skaters spin and twirl at a dizzying speed!

But how do they do that without falling?

Each amazing jump, boom, hold onto that!

Every dizzying spin.

How on earth do these Olympians stay upright, and not fall on their faces?

"Olympic ice has some magic to it," said Adam Rippon, a U.S. Olympic figure skater.

Well, it's not magic.

The secret of their stability lies in the brain!

Fluid in the inner ear helps us keep our balance while doing everyday activities, like walking.

But watch what happens when spinning, illustrated by this fearless Ph.D. student at Johns Hopkins University.

When she stops, that fluid keeps moving. You can see her eyes reacting trying to find balance.

It’s what makes us mere mortals feel dizzy.

"You just kind of get used to it," said Vincent Zhou, a U.S. Olympic figure skater.

Over time in elite athletes, the brain learns to suppress the false sensation that they're still moving.

"The skater is not aware that they're doing this. This is something that the brain is actually taking care of for them, based on their experience of doing this routine day after day after day," said Kathleen Cullen.

To put it simply… "if you're still getting dizzy doing spins... Baby... You need to practice more," Rippon said.

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It certainly didn't feel like early December around northern California this afternoon with plentiful sunshine and much warmer than average highs. A cold front is approaching, but we unfortunately don't have rain or snow in our forecast.
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