Archery is a Science Archery is a Science

Archery delicately balances focus, precision and muscle control. One father-and-son duo also factors in a component that can drastically affect each shot: the math and science of physics.

Jim Martin, 65, and Kyle, 21, use physics to crack the code for record-breaking distance shots when competing to make the longest shot in the annual Flight Archery Championships at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats.

Archers compete annually at the Bonneville Salt Flats to see who can shoot their arrows the farthest. Photo Credit: Salt Lake Tribune

Target archery requires precise shooting. Flight archery also requires precision, but its competitors don’t aim at targets or bull’s-eyes. Their arrows can land anywhere. The only goal is to shoot your arrow the farthest. Archers must make precise calculations to learn the exact mass their arrow needs to fly the farthest. The Martins test the mass of their arrows in rapid-fire experiments until finding the winning formula.

It helps that they love mathematical formulas. Jim, for example, is a research physicist at Sandia National Laboratories. The Martins’ calculations work, and they plan to keep calculating as long as they can. “Strength plus physics beats brute strength alone,” Jim Martin told the Albuquerque Journal.

Jim and Kyle test their arrows until they find the correct formula. Photo credit: Albuquerque Journal

Some categories require them to stick within the framework of wooden shafts and feathered fletching, but that never discourages them. They take their materials and test various combinations of arrow weights and lengths until getting the mass just right.

Kyle Martin competed in the competition’s junior division until this year. He and his father dominated their respective categories the past two years, but this year they’ll go head to head for the first time. Jim predicts Kyle will surpass him at the tournament.

Jim and Kyle both hold world records in flight archery. Photo credit: Albuquerque Journal

One of Kyle’s record-breaking shots sailed beyond the length of five football fields, landing at 629 yards. Jim’s highest record is 521 yards, shot with an American longbow. We’ll eagerly wait to see who defends their records, and who sets new ones at the Flight Archery Championships, scheduled for Labor Day weekend.

Until then, even if you aren’t a mathematician, you might want to try flight archery. That’s especially true if you find target shooting intimidating. Flight archery is a great way to build up strength without the pressure of aiming at a precise spot on a target.

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