# Olympic Physics: Modeling the Optimal Shot Put Launch Angle

It probably started with rocks. Everyone loves to throw rocks (especially into some body of water — I don’t know why). Of course, it’s difficult to make a fair sporting event using inconsistent rocks. I guess that’s how the shot put event started. At least that’s how it started in my mind.

In the shot put event, the athlete throws a heavy ball (the shot) as far as possible. Here’s the fun parts (that I didn’t know). For men, the shot has a mass of 16 pounds — but for women, it has a mass of 4 kilograms. Ha. That’s funny. Oh, also apparently there’s not a standard shot diameter — just a standard mass. That’s sort of weird. Anyway, the world record for men is 23.56 meters and for women it’s 22.63 meters.

So, let’s say you want to compete in the shot put event? When you throw this shot (it’s weird calling a ball a shot), what is the best angle to launch it? Apparently, the top athletes have a release angle of about 37 to 38 degrees. Why?

Let’s get to some physics.

# Projectile Motion and Air Resistance

In introductory physics, we consider projectile motion to be the mechanics for any object in which the only force to consider is the downward pulling gravitational force.

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Physics faculty, science blogger of all things geek. Technical Consultant for CBS MacGyver and MythBusters. WIRED blogger.