by Tori Boggs

A gym is no place without a jump rope. Cheesy right? Well honestly with this always on my mind, I remember entering elementary school P.E. class to be placed on third base or told to swing the tennis racket and all the while I only thought of what I would do were my hands grasping a jump rope. When I was five years old I saw a rope skipping performance. It was one of those “ahha!” moments in my life — a memory that has never left me. Begging my parents to let me jump rope, I soon found out about jump rope team tryouts in my hometown of Parkersburg, West Virginia… and that is how my crazy journey began.

Words really cannot describe the sport of jump rope. (Yes, jump rope IS a sport, as I will prove in a bit). That is why I bring my rope with me wherever I go! Why not explain it by showing off a little? People think of it as a playground game with little girls singing rhymes. That is false. Imagine learning how to do a back flip, something a tad scary to begin with, then adding a rope into that (I have indeed messed this up many times). Years of practicing and developing a passion not only led me to 9 world titles and 2 world records, but have also allowed me to travel the world forging relationships with tons of incredible people along the way. That’s pretty close to skipping around on a playground, right?

Actually, it is not too far off. If you have ever gone to a circus performance, you may have seen me jumping rope. I am not talking about roaring lions and fire breathers under a red and white tent. This is cirque, which means make up, costumes, choreography, and performers of the near impossible. One of my most incredible experiences has been working with Cirque Dreams and Cirque du Soleil. Not only did four of us jump ropers have our rope skipping act, but we were integrated into the entire performance, dancing and acting along the way. I never thought jump rope would lead me there. The sport, however, has led me down some crazy paths.

Finale of a Cirque du Soleil performance in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  That's me all of the way on the left with the red sleeves.

Finale of a Cirque du Soleil performance in Grand Rapids, Michigan. That’s me all of the way on the left with the red sleeves.

Now I am a student at Ohio State, THE Ohio State University to be exact – my newest path. It is basically the largest university in the nation and guess what, they do not have a jump rope team!!!! BUT that just opens up another opportunity to share the sport with more people and understand as much as I can about WHY jump rope is possible. So here’s what I am working on now – explaining the sport through science!! My body knows jump rope, but I want to be able to explain the motion and forces of the sport. Plus I have been a math and science nerd since grade school, competing in national math competitions and even creating one for my region in West Virginia and Ohio middle schools. Incorporating my academic passion into my athletic obsession, I have numerous drawings and ideas of jump ropes, shoes, and equipment all waiting for improvement, revision, and creation to better the sport.

Triple under performed using the "toad" skill.

I am excited to combine my two passions – science and jump rope!

Triple under TJ performed in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.

Triple under skill performed in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.

Jump rope itself is constantly evolving. Innovative ideas are pushing the sport to new heights, which seem almost impossible. There is an absolute science around progressing from skill to skill to create something new as well. Take a simple criss-cross. Your arms cross as you jump over the rope. To make that more difficult, take the bottom arm of the cross, lift your opposite leg, and put your bottom arm under your leg. This is called a “leg over cross,” or, in jump rope slang, a “toad.”  Variations of this “skill” include putting one arm behind your back or over your head or switching which arm goes under your leg or even switching your legs!! It may seem hard to believe, but the possibilities are endless!!  In the video below, try to spot the various ways you can be creative with the toad skill. That is, try to come up with some of your own arm and leg combinations!

So let’s delve into some biomechanics of jump rope.

First of all, a single jump, which is performed literally thousands of times during a practice, can be broken into four phases:

  1. load phase – the body’s preparation to jump based on balancing the weight load of the balls of the feet and flexing the knees
  2. flight phase – the propulsion off the ground by pushing from the balls of the feet through the ankles, calves, knees, and hips
  3. airborne phase – the body is off the ground and the arms are controlling the rope swing under the feet
  4. landing phase – the joints absorbing the impact of the jump upon landing

Us jumpers rely on Newton’s Third Law of Motion: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Jumping is that acceleration of body parts upward to increase the mutual force between us and the earth so it is larger than the force of body weight! It involves both aerobic and anaerobic training benefits and is similar to resistance training in that different muscle groups may control take off and landing so that the joints absorb weight properly.

Jump rope gymnastics skill called a "front-walkover."

Jump rope gymnastics skill called a “front-walkover.”

However, jump rope is also about speed. That is to say, the rope can move roughly 60 miles per hour (approximately 6 jumps per second!!), cutting through the air due to its steel wire composition. Nowadays, jumpers are reaching 200 jumps in 30 seconds!!

I never want this power, creativity, and ingenuity of jump rope to end. Developing new ideas and sharing them with as many people as possible is why I am so passionate about the sport. I have had the opportunity to travel to Kenya, South Africa, Denmark, Sweden, France, Germany, Cyprus, Australia, and many more countries teaching others how to jump!! One of the great things about jump rope is its versatility. Not only is it inexpensive and easy to do practically anywhere, but also you can jump rope by yourself or with as many people as you want!!

Double dutch four-person routine at the U.S. National Jump Rope Championship in California.

Double dutch four-person routine at the U.S. National Jump Rope Championship in California.  I’m upside down!

Jump Rope is what I love to do!! Besides getting this sport into the Olympics, I also want to create an act and tour as a jump rope performer for Cirque du Soleil. Until then I will continue my endeavors and keep expanding my knowledge, spreading it across the world.

If you are still unconvinced about jump rope being a sport, just watch the video below. Try to spot the load, flight, airborne, and landing phases of various jumps. Then pick up a rope and try it yourself!!

Happy jumping!!




About Tori Boggs

OSU headshot

Hey y’all!! I am a professional rope skipper and nine-time World Jump Rope Champion from Parkersburg, West Virginia. I hold two World Rope Skipping Speed and Power Records and have been jumping rope for the past 15 years.  I am a member of Jump Company USA and captain of Team USA for the past four years. I have toured with Cirque Dreams and am a guest jumper for Rope Works and Cirque Du Soleil. I conduct jump rope performances, clinics, workshops all over the world and was featured in the film documentary “JUMP!” that appears SHOWTIME.  I am an Honors Collegium student studying Physics at The Ohio State University.

Smaller Than Microscopic

by Andy Berger

As a teaching assistant for college freshman physics labs at OSU, I had a student ask me what being a physicist is like. “Do we just throw tennis balls against the wall, and see how they bounce back?” he asked. As silly as it may sound, the question was fair because that was essentially what we were having students do in their lab that week.  Since we understand that motion well now, having been described more than 300 years ago by Isaac Newton, physics can appear stale and mundane.  My student would be surprised to learn that even today there are many unanswered questions in physics.  Unfortunately, we don’t always do a great job promoting what continues to make physics interesting.

As humans, we live in the “middle” of size scales at which the universe unfolds.  The motion of a tennis ball – spanning a few meters – also lives in that realm.  However, there is much to explore at extremely large and small size scales.  The estimated diameter of the universe is about 1027 meters (1 with 27 zeros after it – a billion billion billion meters).  Meanwhile, the diameter of an individual proton is 10-15 meters (1 with a decimal point and 15 zeros before it – a millionth of a billionth of a meter).  So 1.8 meters – the average human height – is near the middle.


Figure 1. Comparison of the sizes of various objects. Much physics happens at size scales far from the human scale.

Much of the excitement in physics now is centered on what is happening at those extreme size scales.  At huge sizes we ask the questions: is there life on other planets, how do stars form, what is dark matter? And at small sizes: how do 2 meters of DNA fold into a cell nucleus, what are the most fundamental particles of matter, how do collections of atoms interact to produce everyday phenomena like color and magnetism?

The smallest object observable to the unaided human eye is about 50 micrometers (1 micrometer is 10-6 meters, one millionth of a meter).  This is pretty much the diameter of the average human hair (17-180 micrometers, depending on color).  Things smaller than this all get lumped into a single category: “microscopic.”  Take for example a cell and an atom.  On the blackboard, at least when my grade school teacher drew them, they looked very similar to me.


Figure 2. A comparison of blackboard sketches of a cell and an atom. They appear similar in size, right?

As a result, it was embarrassingly late in my lifetime when I had the light-bulb moment realization that a cell is much bigger than an atom.  Much, much bigger – at 5 micrometers across, a red blood cell is about 40,000 times bigger than a carbon atom.  So if my teacher had drawn an atom on the blackboard (big enough for the entire classroom to see), a to-scale blood cell would be as big around as Interstate 270, the beltway around Columbus, OH.

My research brings me into very close contact with the objects at the small end of the size spectrum – sometimes smaller than 1 micrometer.  Since our specialized microscopes can “see” nanometer-sized objects (1 billionth of a meter), perhaps we should instead call them nanoscopes.  Nevertheless, the microscope that I work with doesn’t just see very small objects; it actually “sees” magnetism.

Figure 3.  Magnetic image of a computer hard disk drive.  "Bits" of information are visible as colored stripes.  On the right, I compare the size of these bits to the diameter of a human hair.

Figure 3. Magnetic image of a computer hard disk drive. “Bits” of information are visible as colored stripes. On the right, I compare the size of these bits to the diameter of a human hair.

This is an image from my microscope of the 1s and 0s of a magnetic hard drive – the device we all use every day to store our documents, music, photos, etc.  It is a false color image – magnetism doesn’t actually have a “color,” but I’ve assigned the North and South magnetic poles to red and blue.  A single stripe is known as a bit.  A bit is the smallest amount of information, and can be thought about like a light switch – on or off, 1 or 0.  Eight bits are needed to store a single letter of the alphabet, and are known collectively as a byte.  The miniature size of the bits allows us to store billions of bytes (literally, that’s a Gigabyte) on a device that can fit in your pocket (iPods, cell phones, etc.).  I’ve shrunk the image down so that you can see, when compared to a human hair, a hard drive bit is very small.

Richard Feynman, a renowned physicist, famously said, “There’s plenty of room at the bottom.”  By this, he meant that we can utilize the tiny size of atoms and small collections of atoms to do tremendous things.  “Nanoscience” – a catch term and hot research topic that seeks to realize Feynman’s goal – is any science that takes place at the nanometer scale (one billionth of a meter).

Some of the best examples of how much “room” is down there – at small sizes – are biological systems.  Consider DNA, which stores our genetic code using base pairs the same way a hard drive stores files using magnetic bits.  Scientists have actually begun utilizing DNA as if it were a hard drive.  Feynman suggested that nanoscience would enable the writing of the entire collection of books in the world, which he estimated to be 24 million volumes, in a space the size of the head of a pin.  In a near-fulfilling of Feynman’s prophecy, George Church, a Harvard Professor of molecular genetics, encoded 20 million copies of his book into a DNA sequence, and dropped it onto a small slip of paper.  The droplet of DNA isn’t actually visible in this grainy photo, but its position is at the center of the red circle.  Plenty of room, indeed.

Figure 4. Slip of paper with 20 million copies of George Church's "Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves" written in DNA.

Figure 4. Slip of paper with 20 million copies of George Church‘s “Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves” written in DNA.

To my tennis-ball throwing student, it wasn’t obvious what made physics interesting and exciting anymore.  We can easily and routinely watch a tennis ball fly through the air with our own unaided eyes. We cannot however manipulate DNA or observe the magnetic bits of a hard drive without specialized scientific instruments.  “Hardly any scientific discoveries of the past century flowed from the direct application of our five senses.  They flowed instead from the direct application of sense-transcendent mathematics and hardware.”  (Neil deGrasse Tyson, Death By Black Hole, page 29)  Through my graduate work in physics, I have had the chance to directly interact with this type of “hardware” – a microscope which can “see” magnetism at size scales comprised of merely hundreds to thousands of atoms.  Studying physics allows me to truly grasp the variety of scales in which the events of our universe unfold.  Every day I’m amazed at how much room there is to explore “at the bottom.”


About Andy Berger

Picture1I grew up in Mansfield, Ohio, received my undergraduate degree from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, and am now finishing my fifth year of the physics PhD program at Ohio State.  I am a condensed matter experimentalist with a focus on scanning probe microscopy, magnetism, and graphene.  I never would’ve guessed that would be my “job description” when I was in high school.  Away from the lab, I enjoy staying active – mostly through swimming, running, cycling, and soccer.