Row Bots Test Whether Human Rowers Have Been Doing It Wrong
There are two different ways to row a boat with a bunch of oars. You can either do it synchronously, with everyone pulling all together and at the same time, or asynchronously, with rowers pulling in some sort of sequence, like a repeating wave. Nobody who knows what they’re doing with a boat (and this includes all of the Olympic rowing teams) ever does the asynchronous thing, and the assumption is that a rowing team that all pulls together is stronger and more efficient than a rowing team that pulls out of sync.
But here’s the thing: If you look at the hydrodynamics of a boat, a direct result of large speed variations is increased friction on the hull, and that means wasted energy compared to a boat propelled more steadily. With that in mind, French researchers decided to find out if rowing asynchronously might in fact be more efficient, and they have to put it to the test with a little racing boat filled with… wait for it… row bots.