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Size Dimensions and Tolerances for Sports Equipment Now in Wolfram|Alpha

July 27, 2012 —
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The 2012 Olympics are here, and surely between those moments of watching athletes perform fantastic maneuvers, shatter world records, and generally inspire us all as we recognize just what exactly human beings are capable of, you may say to yourself: “I wonder how I can use Wolfram|Alpha in a conversation about sports?” Luckily, we’re all big sports fans, and since the outcome of events is so often determined by inches or fractions of seconds, it is crucial that every object used conforms to certain standards. With this in mind, Wolfram|Alpha has expanded its understanding of sport object measurements. And why not? Measurements are exciting.

It is now possible to quickly know more about the various events being played in the London 2012 Olympics. We’ll even prove it to you, since certainly you demand evidence. Suppose you were curious about the men’s discus—you can easily find all the relevant physical dimensions:

Olympic men's discus

One thing you will notice with this example, as well as with many other sport objects, is that there are ranges for certain dimensions. So, while the weight of a discus must be exactly two kilograms, the size and thickness have a small tolerance while still conforming to the rules.

Imagine you’re with a pedantic friend of yours, and you’re discussing Olympic javelin throws over some coffee or tea. While your friend might state, “You know, in 2008, Barbora Spotakova from the Czech Republic threw her javelin 71.42 meters, winning the gold medal, beating out Russia’s silver medalist Maria Abakumova by 0.64 meters,” and then chortle adorably, you can add, “Correct. Did you know, though, that the javelin used in the women’s competition is 600 grams, compared to the men’s 800-gram version, with a radius difference of around 2.5 millimeters? What sort of effect, if any, do you think that has on the competition?” You can then refer your friend to the answer on Wolfram|Alpha. Those two are just the javelins used in the Olympics. There are also 700-, 500-, and 400-gram javelins used in other competitions:

700-gram javelin, 500-gram javelin, 400-gram javelin

Variations of sport objects also apply to sports not played in the Olympics, including korfball, the Dutch mixed-gender sport that is similar to basketball and netball:

Size 3 korfball, size 5 korfball

You can also use Wolfram|Alpha to compare multiple items. For example, the Olympics use the international (FIBA) basketball in competition, which is slightly smaller than a standard American basketball. But exactly how much do they differ? 22 ounces (623.7 grams) for the NBA basketball, with a circumference of 29.5 inches (749.3 millimeters) means that it’s possible for the Olympic basketball to potentially weigh slightly more or less, with an equal potential for a slightly larger circumference:

Men's Olympic basketball, NBA basketball

Since Wolfram|Alpha has taken all of its knowledge directly from the rule books of the various governing bodies, you will see that dimensions are given in the units standard to each country. Here the FIFA basketball is shown in metric units, while the NBA basketball is given in imperial units. (The ability to convert into a common unit is coming soon.)

And haven’t you always wondered how many men’s hurdles you would have to stack up to reach the height of a 10-meter diving tower? We have. We make no apologies for it, either:

Height of a 10 m diving tower / men’s 400 m hurdles

As well as exploring the games and objects for the 2012 Summer Olympics, it would be prudent not to forget that Wolfram|Alpha has information relevant to the Winter Olympics, too! Just for the fun of it, let’s compare the length of men’s slalom skis to women’s:

Length men’s slalom skis / women’s slalom skis

Finally, below is a humble suggestion for a sport to be included in future Olympics. The Wolfram|Alpha team prides itself on its diversity—of ideas, modes of expression, and national and cultural identity. As diversity has always benefited us, as we hope it has benefited you, too, surely the Olympics can include a sport that has the potential to truly unite us as a species:

Quaffle, muggle quaffle


I don’t think it’s useful to me to have the FIBA basketball figures reported in mm and the NBA basketball figures in inches. I understand that the regulations for the respective basketballs are done in different units, but it’s impossible for me to compare these numbers as given. (Also, there is no button available to change units, and this page seems to be disregarding my preferences to display non-metric units.)

Posted by Brandon September 1, 2012 at 1:31 am

I reached this post very late indeed the 2014 Olympics & Common wealth game ended in Glasgow. But , this is a nice read and I look forward to your upcoming posts regarding the recent games.

Posted by Sue Dorsett August 8, 2014 at 8:03 am