Authority radiates from his neon orange vest
August 19, 2016 7:48 PM   Subscribe

The people who measure the race courses for the Olympics.
posted by Chrysostom (16 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think this is going to be one of those posts where even if people don't have much to say, they're going to read and enjoy the content quite a bit. Thank you.

SLAP!

(Single Link Awesome Post)
posted by Night_owl at 9:17 PM on August 19, 2016 [3 favorites]




Yeah, agree with Night_owl here. Great read, thanks for posting.
posted by hilaryjade at 5:48 AM on August 20, 2016


I routinely get different readings from Garvin, Suunto and Strava. I run a lot of intervals and repeats, and even within those there is 5% variation.

In marathon running, NOT picking the shortest possible line is "giving miles to the course", and learning not to do that is a huge advantage.

swim smooth has some time lapse footage of open water swimmers wasting distance if you want to see it in action!

(Neat and sensible that the federations have a tiny fudge factor to make sure the course is always long enough!
posted by gregglind at 6:00 AM on August 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


I have worked for thirty years in the scale industry. People aren't generally aware of how important measurement and calibration of measuring instruments are to keep the world running correctly. When we hire new people they are usually astonished at just how pervasive our business is. The OP points out the importance of making sure records really are records, but it's also the case that the truck scale at the gate of a chemical plant is also its cash register, and the tank scales within determine the quality of the product they will create. The lab balances determine whether they can tell how well the other stuff is working, and when they are building the new extension crane scales make sure that the crane doesn't fall over during a lift. And all of those devices are subject to calibration drift and outright faults, so regular calibration checks and maintenance are a necessity.

I particularly like the mention that he has to adjust the reading of his steel tape for the temperature. When you get into really wonky measurement nerdism it turns out the whole world is made out of rubber and styrofoam.
posted by Bringer Tom at 7:29 AM on August 20, 2016 [9 favorites]


Wouldn't the pressure in the tires of the bike alter subtly over the course of a 50-km ride?
posted by jacquilynne at 7:59 AM on August 20, 2016


I was in a 50K once where the winner set a North American record. Then the USATF came and measured the course and decided it was a couple yards short. It was pointed out that the winner still would have set a North American record, but no matter, the whole race was thrown out. Nobody was happy.
posted by lagomorphius at 8:57 AM on August 20, 2016


wait I can be paid for my everyday OCD with distances??
posted by numaner at 9:29 AM on August 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


One of my favourite stories this time around was why FINA does not use 1000ths to split times, despite having the technology to do so - while it's easy to have the 100m equal to all, and on Bobsled / Luge in the Winter Olympics (a sport that actually uses them to split times) they all run on the same track, a regulation size pool has a 3cm margin of error between the first and last lanes, and it's not possible to guarantee a .007 difference didn't happen only because that swimmer was on a minimally shorter lane.
posted by lmfsilva at 11:27 AM on August 20, 2016 [4 favorites]


Worth it just for the Jones Counter site, a vision of refreshing simplicity.
posted by zamboni at 3:14 PM on August 20, 2016


Nobody was happy.

This is the reason for the baker's dozen 0.01% overmeasure mentioned in the OP, to make sure that any records set really are records and won't fall in that way.
posted by Bringer Tom at 7:15 PM on August 20, 2016


I was in a 50K once where the winner set a North American record. Then the USATF came and measured the course and decided it was a couple yards short. It was pointed out that the winner still would have set a North American record, but no matter, the whole race was thrown out. Nobody was happy.

My first marathon got retrospectively annulled because it was about 400 yards short. I wasn't terribly happy about that. Can't imagine what it would feel like to lose a record over a few yards like that.

Great post, Chrysostom.
posted by Pink Frost at 11:17 PM on August 20, 2016


I particularly like the mention that he has to adjust the reading of his steel tape for the temperature. When you get into really wonky measurement nerdism it turns out the whole world is made out of rubber and styrofoam.

Why even bother if you're just gonna add 50m meter at the end because "maybe we're wrong", I get that everybody probably does it so it's pretty equal in the end for records but it just makes all that obsessiveness about precision boggus to me. Also why aren't they using professional surveyor equipment? Isn't that more precise?
posted by coust at 9:14 PM on August 21, 2016


Because the 50m add on pushes the plus/minus of the uncertainty window into definitely plus. If they aren't meticulous with the accuracy then the 0.1% add on might not be enough to compensate for the uncertainty.
posted by Mitheral at 10:15 PM on August 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


wait I can be paid for my everyday OCD with distances??

OCD is not "attention to detail", it's "people ... are consumed by fears (called obsessions) that lead them to perform repetitive behaviors (compulsions) in an effort to prevent the situation or temporarily relieve the anxiety" (women's health).
posted by disconnect at 10:32 AM on August 22, 2016


Also why aren't they using professional surveyor equipment? Isn't that more precise?

Surveying is fairly time-intensive:
How Long Does It Take To Do A Land Survey? Often times when the need of a survey arises, time is of the essence. The land might be immediately sold, utilities may need to be installed, or a home may need to be sited. The Land Surveyor must perform certain tasks before he can ever begin to set the corners of your property.

First, the Warranty Deed needs to be received from you and the surveyor must research all available physical and non-physical information about your property. This usually includes acquiring the survey plats and warranty deeds of adjacent properties from the county surveyor, "tying in" existing fences and corners and calculating your corners locations based on Land Surveying Law and Standard Practices. This process can usually be completed in one or two days, with the corners being set on the third or fourth day. This assumes that the surveyors scheduling allows him to start on your survey immediately. Given your circumstances, the Land Surveyor will gladly estimate how long the survey should take.
That's just for a basic square, probably less than an acre. So let's say that a really good surveyor can do a one-acre lot in a perfect square in a day. That's 836 feet. A marathon is 165.79 times as long.
posted by Etrigan at 10:59 AM on August 22, 2016


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