Fluid dynamics, a subfield of physics that focuses on the movement of air, water or gasses and the impact of objects as they move through fluids, has been studied for centuries. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) emerged in the 1950s, when supercomputers were used to analyze and model data. Today, CFD is indispensable to the design of anything that moves -- including cars, oars, bicycles, helmets and swimsuits -- even human athletes.
For example, using 3-D body scanners, computers and visualization and CFD software, engineers can analyze skin friction. In the last five years aerodynamic technology has become the dominating theme in the development of equipment and clothing for speed-based sports.
Speedo's AQUALAB used computerized scans of hundreds of athletes to pin-point areas of high friction on the athlete's body. With this information, swimsuit designers were able to position low-friction fabric in the right locations to reduce drag.
In competitive cycling, bikers use 90 percent of their power to overcome wind. Even a 5 percent improvement in drag can be the difference between a podium and no podium.
In sports technologies, the little things do matter.