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Is Rio's Olympic Pool Helping Swimmers Go Faster?

Getty Images
Getty Images

For the past week at the 2016 Rio Olympics, the best swimmers in the world have been racing to make history, and to grab a medal for themselves and their country along the way. While the athletes are undoubtedly incredible, they may have to share some of that credit with the pool itself, according to Sports Illustrated.

Experts and athletes agree that the Rio pool is a "fast pool," which is a reference to how it was designed and how those design elements benefit the swimmers. "A fast pool typically has at least three meters of depth to it," University of California’s women’s swimming team coach Teri McKeever told Sports Illustrated. "The deeper the pool is the better, because the splash or the turbulence and everything takes longer to get down to the bottom, and then it doesn’t ricochet back up into the swimmers." During the London 2012 Olympics, NBC ran a video segment about the fast pool at the London Aquatics Center as a part of its Science of the Summer Olympics: Engineering In Sports series, calling it "one of the most technologically advanced pools ever built." Four years prior, announcer and swimming legend Rowdy Gaines called the pool in Beijing "the fastest pool in the world." The pool in Rio is expected to produce just as many records as the one in London, and it's all by design.

Depth isn't the only thing that matters. Sports Illustrated reports that things like buffer lanes, lane lines, and gutters all help to break up waves and reduce ripples and turbulence, the reduction of which provides clearer sailing for the swimmers. Changes to swimsuits and the atmosphere of the venue are also said to play a role, and the athletes themselves still have to be at the top of their game to beat out the competition. "Yes, you want a good facility," coach McKeever told SI, "but also I think it’s the competition, it’s the emotion and everything else that helps with those world records."

[h/t Sports Illustrated via TIME]

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History
The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

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The Force Field Cloak
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Design
This Glowing Blanket Is Designed to Ease Kids' Fear of the Dark
The Force Field Cloak
The Force Field Cloak

Many kids have a security blanket they bring to bed with them every night, but sometimes, a regular blankie is no match for the monsters that invade their imaginations once the lights are off. Now there’s a glow-in-the-dark blanket designed to make children feel safer in bed, no night light required.

Dubbed the Force Field Cloak, the fleece blanket comes in several colorful, glowing patterns that remain invisible during the day. At night, you leave the blanket under a bright light for about 10 minutes, then the shining design will reveal itself in the dark. The glow lasts 8 to 10 hours, just long enough to get a child through the night.

Inventor Terry Sachetti was inspired to create the blanket by his own experiences struggling with scary nighttime thoughts as a kid. "I remember when I was young and afraid of the dark. I would lie in my bed at night, and my imagination would start getting the best of me," he writes on the product's Kickstarter page. "I would start thinking that someone or something was going to grab my foot that was hanging over the side of the bed. When that happened, I would put my foot back under my blanket where I knew I was safe. Nothing could get me under my blanket. No boogiemen, no aliens, no monsters under my bed, nothing. Sound familiar?"

The Force Field Cloak, which has already surpassed its funding goals on both Indiegogo and Kickstarter, takes the comfort of a blanket to the next level. The glowing, non-toxic ink decorating the material acts as a gentle night light that kids can wrap around their whole body. The result, the team claims, is a secure feeling that quiets those thoughts about bad guys hiding in the shadows.

To pre-order a Force Field Cloak, you can pledge $36 or more to the product’s Indiegogo campaign. It is expected to start shipping in January 2018.

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