BMXer to attempt 'Einstein Flip'

Ben Wallace will undertake to pull off a physicist-designed 360-degree back-flip with table-top on January 5th to mark the launch of Einstein Year at the Science Museum in London. On the subject of Special relativity, Einstein famously said: "I thought of that while riding my bicycle."
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Einstein was a keen cyclist and although there is no evidence to suggest he ever attempted a 360-degree back-flip with table-top, nor even a wheelie, it is claimed inspiration for his theory of Special Relativity came to him while riding his bicycle.

One hundred years after the publication of his landmark papers on Special Relativity, Brownian Motion and the Photoelectric Effect, cycling and science will come together once more in another world first: a BMX stunt designed by a physicist.

The stunt will be performed for the first time at the official launch of Einstein Year at London’s Science Museum. It was commissioned by the Institute of Physics to mark the beginning of a year-long celebration of physics. Einstein Year is the UK’s contribution to the International Year of Physics in 2005.

Caitlin Watson, Einstein Year project manager, said: “This innovative bike stunt is the perfect way of illustrating how fun and relevant physics can be to young people.”

Dubbed the ‘Einstein Flip’, the stunt is described as ‘pushing the boundaries of what it is humanly possible to do on a bike’ by Cambridge University physicist Helen Czerski, who collaborated with professional BMXer Ben Wallace to create the manoeuvre.

The stunt will see 18-year-old Wallace launch off a six-feet high ramp and spin backwards through 360 degrees while simultaneously folding his bike underneath him in a table-top move. At one point, onlookers will see Wallace upside down, travelling at 15mph, with his head 12-feet off the floor.

Czerski said: “I spent a lot of time looking at the physics behind various stunts, trying to understand the limits of what is physically possible to determine how far we could push the parameters with our new creation. I then tested our ideas using a computer simulation to plot a new stunt.”

The stunt draws upon a variety of physics theories including the conservation of angular momentum and Newton's laws of motion.

‘When I first started to work out the details of this trick, I wondered if it was physically possible. But I did the maths - calculating Ben’s trajectory, where he will be at different times in the air, the shape and height of the ramp, his velocity and so on - and found that yes, it could work.

"Having said that, I wouldn’t want try this myself," said Czerski, "however much I trust my physics calculations."

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