In last month’s Olympics, if Usain Bolt hadn’t slowed down in his world record-breaking 100 meter dash he would have had an even more amazing time. Some astrophysicists calculated his time. This paper was submitted to the American Journal of Physics.

Abstract: Since that very memorable day at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, a big question on every sports commentator’s mind has been “What would the 100 meter dash world record have been, had Usain Bolt not celebrated at the end of his race?” Glen Mills, Bolt’s coach suggested at a recent press conference that the time could have been 9.52 seconds or better. We revisit this question by measuring Bolt’s position as a function of time using footage of the run, and then extrapolate into the last two seconds based on two different assumptions. First, we conservatively assume that Bolt could have maintained Richard Thompson’s, the runner-up, acceleration during the end of the race. Second, based on the race development prior to the celebration, we assume that he could also have kept an acceleration of 0.5 m/s^2 higher than Thompson. In these two cases, we find that the new world record would have been 9.61 +/- 0.04 and 9.55 +/- 0.04 seconds, respectively, where the uncertainties denote 95% statistical errors.

Also, I like how the researchers thanked their pizza guy and their video sources:

First and foremost, we would like to thank Christian
Nitschke Smith at NRK Sporten for providing very useful
high-resolution footage of the Beijing 100 dash run, and
also BBC and NBC for making their videos available
on their web pages. Second, we thank the pizza guy
from Peppe’s who provided us with a very good half-
n-half “Thai Chicken” and “Heavy Heaven” pizza on a
late Friday night.

Thanks to Cosmic Variance for the article.