Superfluid Workouts

Nov 11, 2013

In his amazing DVD How to Create a Holistic Athlete, Chip Conrad from Bodytribe Fitness, talks about how to train. He begins by teaching 4 things: how to stand, how to sit, how to crawl and how to flow. I have shamelessly stolen these 4 concepts for my gymnastics program and soon they will be my own. Flow is about how to move gracefully from one position to another, being able to selectively tense up and relax different muscles in order to move in a seamless and beautiful way. Every time I hear this I can't help but think about Superfluids: fluids which move without friction. My PhD involved mathematical modelling of superfluid neutron stars and I spent a lot of time coming up with fun ways to explain this to non-physicists. Trampolinists seemed to particularly appreciate the idea of superfluid flooring to avoid carpet burns, whereas my parents preferred the image of a car that, once moving, could travel forever without using petrol (gas). The only thing that works for mathematicians however is this:

$$ (\partial_t + v_X^j \nabla_j ) \left(v^X_i + \epsilon_X \omega \right) + \nabla_i \left(\Phi + \mu_X \right) + \epsilon_X \omega \nabla_i v_X^j = 0 $$

Anyway I like to think of flow as being superfluid, essentially frictionless. The perfect kettlebell clean, for example, has very little friction between the handle and the hand. The bell does not move round your hand and smack your wrist (note to Babycat), your hand moves round the kettlebell and it jumps from your fingers to a 45 degree angle in your hand. This instructional video from Shawn Mozen illustrates exactly what I mean. Whenever I see him do the trick at the 1:06 mark I think about superfluids. It's cool, seamless and frictionless.

In reality friction is an essential part of any movement, but being able to reduce unnecessary friction and flow from one position to another with minimal effort is beautiful. I watch dancers, gymnasts and even Olympic weightlifters move in amazingly difficult ways with, what appears to be, very little effort and I strive to do the same. I want to be graceful, and flow, and move with superfluidity.

Note: The equation is actually a two fluid Euler equation used to model superfluids in neutron stars.