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Usain Bolt is the fastest man on Earth, but on Titan he could fly, say scientists

Physicists calculated that if he was wearing a wingsuit Bolt would achieve lift-off on Saturn's biggest moon before the end of a 100m sprint
  • @jjvincent

Usain Bolt is the fastest man on Earth but scientists have now proven that if the 27-year-old sprinter went for a run on Titan he would literally be flying.

In a paper published in the Journal of Physics Special Topics students from the University of Leicester calculated that the nitrogen-rich atmosphere of Saturn’s largest moon would provide exactly the right conditions for Bolt to achieve take-off - if he was wearing a wingsuit.

On Titan the surface pressure is nearly 50 per cent stronger than Earth’s, meaning that the imbalance of pressure above and below the wings of Bolt’s (hypothetical) wingsuit would achieve lift relatively easily.

The team found that given the average wingsuit area (1.4 metres squared) any individual running above 11 metres per second would be able to take flight – and as Bolt has been clocked at top speeds of 12.27 metres per second, he would be in the air before he hit the finish line in a 100 metre sprint.

And by adjusting the size of the wingsuit, even relatively sluggish runners would be able to take off. With a wing area three times the normal size, a runner going just 6 metres per second would be able to take off.

Titan is seen transitting in front of Saturn. At 3,200 miles across it's bigger than Mercury.

Hannah Lerman, one of the students who authored the study, said: "I had seen a lot of claims online that humans would be able to fly on Titan, but no one had given the physics behind it.

"I thought it would be interesting to try it with a wingsuit – something that you actually use on earth. It is a really exciting idea that someone like Usain Bolt could actually fly unaided. It would give a whole new dimension to travelling."

However, as ever, there are a few meddlesome scientific facts that would bring any would-be human Concorde back to Earth with a bump.

Even if we were able to travel the roughly 1.4 billion kms to Titan, that nitrogen-rich atmosphere would have its downsides, namely a surface temperature of −179.2 °C. Bolt may be best described as ‘blazingly fast’, but even he couldn’t run in that heat.