swimming in syrup

May 4, 2006 at 6:53 pm | | literature

Have you ever wondered, Will humans swim faster or slower in syrup? Me neither, but some researchers at the Chemical Engineering department at University of Minnesota have. And they actually did an experiment to determine the answer. The literally filled an entire swimming pool with a guar solution with twice the the viscocity of water and had people swim in it. The results were published in AIChE Journal.

swimming plot

As you can see from the figure above, people swam the same speed in syrup and water. Are you surprised? I sorta am. I would guess that you’d swim more slowly. I could actually convince myself that you’d swim more quickly. But the same? I guess it’s because human swimming is turbulent, and the effect of viscosity is relatively small. But go ahead and read the results if you want more info.

I wanna do research like that. You know: sticky.


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  1. […] You can’t beat that. Nor can you make it up. Thanks to Ilya for this and the swimming paper. You know, I bet this research is sticky, too. | | […]

    Pingback by Everyday Scientist » more lit: penguin pooh — May 4, 2006 #

  2. Not the result I’d expect either, but pretty facinating. I love the research some people do.

    Buoyancy is another big thing. Like people swimming in (triathlon) wetsuits swim faster than those without (over long distances) because they’re more buoyant. I would assume syrup is more dense so a human is more buoyant in it? Maybe that and the increased resistance (from the viscosity) offset each other almost equally?

    Comment by Adrian — May 25, 2006 #

  3. I like your post. I am interested in the professors conclusion that the greater viscosity did not slow down the swimmers because the flow was turbulent – that seems, well, testable :)

    Comment by bmh2097 — July 26, 2011 #

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