The Physics
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Speed of the Fastest Badminton Shuttlecock

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Ming, Wang. Shuttlecock Speed. Philippine Badminton Community. 1 January 2002. "The shuttlecock is poised to enter the Guinness Book of Records at 162 miles per hour (261 kph) -- the speed it travels on the smash -- compared to squash's 151 mph (243 kph) and a mere 138 mph (222 kph) for tennis. Badminton's promoters hope the speed record might bolster the sport's image and help move it out of other racket sports' shadows, particularly in regions where tennis and squash reign supreme. Besides Guinness, I saw some books claiming the speed for shuttlecock is about 300 km/h." 72.4 m/s
83.3 m/s
Boeth, Jennifer. "The World's Fastest Birdie." Newsweek. 3 August 1992, Vol. 120, Issue 5. "It is the world's fastest racquet sport — the shuttlecock can come off the racquet at up to 200 mph, and, unlike a tennis ball, it never touches the ground." 89.4 m/s
Beginner's Guide to Badminton. BCC Sport: Olympics 2004. 1 April 2004. "Shuttlecocks travel at speeds up to 200 mph - not bad for a piece of equipment made from sticking 16 goose feathers into a piece of cork." 89.4 m/s
Badminton: Got Racket, Have Fun. Schlumberger SEED. [Wow! This webpage disappeared quick. Link rot in the extreme. Ed.] "The shuttle, not to be mistaken with the NASA shuttle, can leave the racket at a speed up to 180 mph during rallies in a top-level match." 80.5 m/s

Much to the surprise of many, who would have believed that a simple arrangement of 16 overlapping goose feathers attached to a rounded cork head could travel so fast? This lightweight, open conical shaped feather-and-cork construction is called a shuttlecock. Also commonly referred to as a birdie, cock, or shuttle, shuttlecocks are high-drag projectiles used in the game of badminton.

The shuttlecock's shape allows for it to be steady while "flowing" in the air, or aerodynamically stable. Regardless of its initial orientation, a shuttlecock will fly headfirst from one opponent to the other and remain it a headfirst configuration. Its aerodynamic behavior has even influenced the design of the spacecraft, SpaceShipOne – allowing it to reach a maximum speed of Mach 3.09 (2,352 mph or 1,051.4 m/s).

Although badminton is not as popular in the US as opposed to sports such as tennis, it is extremely popular primarily in the East, the Scandinavian countries, and Southeastern Asian countries such as China, Korea, Indonesia and Malaysia. In actuality, badminton is considered one of the fastest sports in the world today as well as the fastest sport involving the use of a racquet. Reaching speeds of up to 90.0 m/s (201 mph), a badminton shuttlecock can travel faster than a Eurostar train at its maximum in-service speed of 83.3 m/s (186.4 mph) or even a pelota ball in a game of jai alai with the fastest record speed of 84.0 m/s (188 mph).

Fu Haifeng of China set the official record of the fastest badminton shuttlecock speed at approximately 92.1 m/s (206 mph) on June 3, 2005. However, factors such as material, weight differences, temperature, humidity, altitude, and air pressure can affect the speed of the shuttlecock.

Shu Mei Deng -- 2006