NASA satellite operators, professional race car drivers and open water swimmers have one common thread tying them together. They all face optimal control issues.
That is, satellite engineers, race car drivers and swimmers all want to identify and follow the optimal course they can take to travel in the least amount of time or by using the least amount of energy (fuel). Whether they are traveling through space, on a road or in the water, the three different groups have all determined that the fastest or most energy-efficient course is not always the shortest path.
While a satellite takes into account gravity and altitude to determine the best route, a race car driver takes into account the banks of a course, corners and traction of the road while swimmers calculates currents, tides, waves and the effects of drafting. Many times, the problems and the optimal solutions can be extraordinarily complex.
For example, does a swimmer continue to draft off another swimmer who may going slightly off-course? Does the swimmer slow up to catch a wave into the finish? Does the swimmer stop for hydration or bypass the feeding station? There are other related issues: if a swimmer is late to practice, does he continue driving on the crowded highway or do they take side streets? Does he wear a Speedo Fastskin or a TYR Tracer Light? A 2 beat kick or 4 beat? Slower or faster arm tempo? If only the swimmer had an onboard (mental) mathematical algorithm and computing power like satellite…
Ah, the things we ponder while swimming in the ocean.
Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source
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