Physics Teacher Pitches A Race Between Usain Bolt And A Jurassic Park Dinosaur

In an effort to make introductory physics more engaging for students, University of Toledo physics professor Scott Lee has published a new paper that poses an interesting question: could record-breaking sprinter Usain Bolt outrun the crested dinosaur Dilophosaurus? The therapod was popularized by the movie "Jurassic Park," though, you may be disappointed to learn, there's no evidence the dinosaur could spit acid.

For some students, an introductory physics course may be their only exposure to the field of study — and, more often than not, they may find the topic as dry as it can be difficult. Lee has tackled this issue by developing different activities that'll help students not only learn some physics fundamentals, but also enjoy the time they spend studying. Case in point? His new paper published in "The Physics Teacher" not only presents a fun question but also offers an answer using science.

Most people couldn't outrun this dinosaur

The question is simple: could Usain Bolt win a 100-meter race against a bipedal dinosaur that weighed around 900 pounds? The quick and surprising answer is yes, and it wouldn't even be a close race. Lee presents all of the information needed to guide students through the process of answering the question, doing so in a way that'll help them "build computation skills" and learn about one-dimensional (1D) kinematics. 

The physics professor explained to that presenting the science with dinosaur questions has proven popular among students, stating, "A number of physics majors have, over the years, taken this general education course just because they think dinosaurs are so cool."

Lee chose the Dilophosaurs for this question because, according to the paper, models of the dinosaur reveal its top running speed was likely right around the same average velocity Bolt achieved during his record-breaking sprint in 2009. The paper presents the math necessary to solve this puzzle, crunching the numbers to reveal that Bolt would beat the dinosaur in this hypothetical sprint by at least two seconds. Why would a human runner have the advantage? According to Lee's work, Bolt has faster acceleration than the Dilophosaurus would, with the paper concluding he would "have no trouble" beating the beastly opponent.