Science Questions

What's the fastest a human could run?

Sun, 13th Jul 2008

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Mario asked:

Whatís the fastest a human could run, theoretically. Whatís the fastest a human could sprint at with the aid of all the latest blood and drug enhancements?



We put this question to Professor Chris Cooper:

The cynical answer is to say we know that because we have Tim Montgomery as an example of somebody but then heíd been beaten by Usain Bolt!  I think itís quite a difficult question to answer.  The world record now is 9.72 [menís 100m] and no evidence thatís been done illegally.  You can sort of extrapolate form that where you might get.  I think increasingly weíre going to see genetic anomalies, people whoíve got a genetic aberration that makes them perform better and thatís going to be what makes the difference.  A classic example was a Finnish cross-country skier who had a naturally active EPO system.  He made in his body large amounts of red blood cells because he had a gene defect.  It wasnít a defect, of course!  I think youíll see these step changes by people who happened to have had a mutation.  Itís difficult to therefore extrapolate.


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mario asked the Naked Scientists:

Theoretically, what's the fastest a human could sprint with the aid of all the latest drug/blood enhancements?

What do you think? mario, Thu, 10th Jul 2008

I don't think this is something that anyone has worked on. I think it would be too controversial.
Without drugs the fastest speed of a human running was set by Maurice Greene, who achieved a sprint speed of 26.7 mph. I will do some more research and see if I can find the super enhanced version. Make it Lady, Fri, 11th Jul 2008

Usian Bolt is the current world record holder, with a time of 9.72 seconds. Madidus_Scientia, Sat, 12th Jul 2008

I dont think it should be controversial. I think we're close to reaching our natural physical potential, at least with regards to sprinting. They must be some kind of bio-mechanical limit which can not surpass with conventional tarining.

The olypmpic committee even prevented paraolympian sprinters from competing with able bodied athletes, as their enhanced prosthesis allowed them to run faster. And olympic swimmers now employs shark-skin like swim suits for greater hydrodynamics.

I think if sports enhancements are not taken in dangerous doses, they should be used- maybe in a seperate olympic event. I'm really intrigued to see far the human body can be stretched!! How super human can we be? As the years go by, who knows, maybe there could be a genetically enhanced athletes competing in special 'enhanced events'?!?! mario, Mon, 14th Jul 2008

A true athlete strives to be the best they can be. Not the best they can be with the help of drugs. Otherwise who is the real champion, the producers of the drugs or the athlete?

You say you're intrigued to see how far the human body can be stretched, is it really the same if they're using drugs? Its not the human body then, its the human body plus artificial enhancements, where do you stop, why not get a surgically implanted combustion engine? Madidus_Scientia, Tue, 15th Jul 2008

What is it to be human? To use that frequently used fact- we are passenger in our own bodies- refering to the fact that there are more bacterial cells, than somatic cells.

Your saying that if we use drugs to enhance ourselves, we are not a true representation of what we could naturally be?

If an athelete takes naturally occuring body substances like Human growth hormone, testosterone, red blood cells- i wouldn't classify them as "human + enhancement".

But we have co-evolved with many plants and their respective substances which have enabled us to adpat to a range of environments. Possible biological evidence for this could be from the exisitence of the endocannibinoid system within us, which is senstive to endogenous cannibinoid- but may also suggest an earlier interaction with cannibinoid plants.

When you define what it is to "human" you cannot compartmentalise us. We are not seperate from our environment. We are constantly changing. It is the socio-cultural factors that influence our seperation of the natural and artificial world. I guess that is how we make sense of teh classifying our surroundings.

mario, Tue, 15th Jul 2008

Does "the latest enhancements" include a bicycle? What about a motor bike?
After all, if you are going to statr thinking about cheating you might as well do it properly. Bored chemist, Tue, 15th Jul 2008

And would you really admire someone who beats a world record by being hopped up on steriods? Madidus_Scientia, Wed, 16th Jul 2008

No, Not faster than an "able bodied" sprinter, just faster than other paraolympians., Wed, 16th Jul 2008

I was mistaken, 'not faster', but nearly just as fast and one sprinter in particular 'oscar pistorius' just failed to make the cut for the south african able bodied team..... mario, Thu, 17th Jul 2008

"one sprinter in particular 'oscar pistorius' just failed to make the cut for the south african able bodied team..... "

But he still failed. He is not as fast as an ablebodied athlete, he is not even fast enough to get into the GB team, who stand zero chance of picking up a medal., Thu, 17th Jul 2008

Well, if a person were able to pull off a perfect legal reaction time of 0.1 secs and then nail the best 10m splits ever run, they'd run a 9.56 sec 100m.

That could give some idea. & I believe it was a study done at the Univrsity of Toronto that figured 9.30 seconds is as fast as the 100m could be run. Cruisin1, Thu, 24th Jul 2008

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