Anette Hosoi, physical and sports edification

Anette Hosoi, in her office at the Machusetts Institute of Technology, in 2014.

Is it the joy of meeting colleagues in the flesh at a conference, after almost two years of interruption due to Covid-19? Or is it the usual petulance of the researcher? Still, Anette Hosoi asked a question after almost every presentation of the conference “Physics of sport”, held at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Lyon, on 6 and 8 December. She herself, during her presentation, did not fail to twirl between atypical objects for a physicist: a hint of Covid, a touch of American football and a large piece of basketball. This just after her thesis student at the Machusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) talked about shock-absorbing soles for running shoes.

What’s gotten into this researcher to get her so interested in sports performance? “She has an open mind. In his lab, there are as many robots as there are human skills,” described Christophe Clanet, research director at the CNRS and professor at the Ecole polytechnique, at the start of his colleague’s presentation. He also revealed the origin of the nickname of this American of German mother and Japanese father, “Peko”, which is the name of a Japanese delicacy.

“When I was little, at 10, I wanted to be Carl Sagan, the author of the science shows “Cosmos””, remembers Anette Hosoi, just 52, who fell in love with physics a few years later, thanks to a high school teacher. At university, it is fluid mechanics that attracts him. “I loved seeing fluids in motion. We quickly manage to develop an intuition about them and, sometimes, we are wrong! », specifies the physicist, who started the sport with swimming, then gymnastics, before turning to taekwondo. Today, she runs, practices snowboarding and mountain biking, and watches major American sports matches on TV – football, baseball, basketball…

Understand the phenomena

This professional marriage between his pions for fluids and sport is recent, less than ten years. Her first works, published from 1996, indeed belong to the mechanics of “clic” fluids: moving liquid films, drops… When she joined MIT, in 1999, as a postdoctoral researcher, then as a professor, in 2013 , in the mechanical engineering department, she is moving towards robotics, and more particularly its “soft” aspect, inspired by biology. She combines two of her skills: mechanics, or the art of deforming matter, and optimization, or the mathematical art of finding the right recipe within the fixed frameworks.

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