Indiana Jones proved just how useful a good bullwhip can be, both as a tool and as a weapon, but people are still surprised when neuropsychologist Jessica Cail tells them that one of her favorite hobbies is practicing whip-cracking. She talks about this peculiar sideline in the latest installment of the NOVA video series, Secret Life of Scientists.
Male peacocks shake their brilliantly-hued, long tail feathers to attract females in a courtship display known as “train-rattling.” But scientists had never closely examined the biomechanics behind this behavior—until now. A new paper in PLOS One concludes that the frequency at which those feathers vibrate can enhance this iridescent display—even as the eyespots remain almost perfectly still.
The courtship behavior of peacocks is well known, and until quite recently, scientists had assumed that the female of the species (peahens) simply preferred males with longer feathered trains and more eyespots—the more brightly colored, the better. Precisely how the males produced those shaking displays wasn’t deemed an important factor, which might be why nobody bothered to investigate the matter.
More recent research indicates the peacock courtship process might be quite a bit more complicated than this. For instance, the displays do seem to capture peahens’ visual attention, but eye-tracking studies showed that they aren’t spending much time gazing at the edges of the male trains, or at those brilliantly hued eyespots. Some other factor could be at work.
The third act of Swan Lake is considered one of the most difficult in the balletic cannon, requiring a dancer to twirl around 32 consecutive times. How its accomplished is as much a feat of physics as it is athleticism.
I’d totally go to more ballets if they actually included cannons.
Dancers also turn their heads a particular way when spinning – “spotting” (keeping your eyes focused on one spot for as long as you can while the rest of you is turning, and then whipping your head around quickly to catch back up with the turn) also helps keep momentum going. And it lowers the odds of falling over bang! on the floor from being dizzy. Martial artists utilize the same skill.
A bite to the neck and a clean getaway—that’s what a vampire needs. A group of physics students from the University of Leicester calculated exactly how long a vampire would need to accomplish those two things: about 6.4 minutes. They published their findings in the university’s Journal of Physics Special Topics.
Depends on the vampire type. In some movies they just chew the throat open, in others their fangs are hypodermic needles and the blood drained goes directly into the vampires bloodstream. Any of these differences would vastly affect the speed of the blood loss.
You’ve heard all the cues, from keeping your chest up, to pushing your knees out. You’re sure you’re doing everything right, but it still feels all wrong. If this sounds anything like you at the gym, it might be because you’re not using the right form for your body.
Have you ever wondered why your pancakes sometimes have ugly craters, or a weird ring around their edges? A new analysis of pancake recipes could help you exploit physics to make the perfect pancake — and possibly one day save your sight.
There’s an interesting section in “The Food Lab,” a hybrid science/cook-book, about how the ideal amount of baking powder to use in pancake batter so that pancakes end up a nice golden-brown. It also includes a buttermilk pancake recipe that I’ve tried a few times and which I found pretty tasty. It suggests separating out the egg whites and whipping them in order to make a fluffier pancake. This also works great when making sweet potato pie.
While most of us will ring in the new year with family and friends, science doesn’t take a holiday. And neither do the scientists responsible for big ongoing experiments. One of the more famous historical examples of this is the case of physicist Chien-Shiung Wu—often referred to as “Madame Wu”—who gave up vacationing with her husband in the 1950s to prove that nature is slightly left-handed.
Reminds me of Rosalind Franklin, the female scientist whose x-ray crystalography images showed the double helix of DNA getting no credit as Watson, Crick and Wilkins got the Nobel prize. Women in science: getting overlooked since the there were first women and science.
New Year’s revelers will be heading out to all kinds of parties tonight, and chances are a good percentage will be tempted by the presence of a chocolate fountain—just a teensy bit of indulgence before those resolutions kick in. Perhaps those with a scientific bent could find themselves pondering, just for a moment, the complicated physics involved in all that chocolaty goodness.
Nearly all diseases take time and money to diagnose. A new test that exploits a quirk of physics could make blood tests for certain diseases faster, cheaper, and easily performed in virtually any setting.
…it’s just boring. My stance is similar on cycling trainers.
Kerrigan, a Harvard Medical School graduate with a masters in physical rehabilitation, spent many years doing research into walking and running biomechanics. When one study indicated that high-heeled shoes can lead to knee arthritis among women, she began looking into healthier designs. Several years ago, she left a tenured position at the University of Virginia to launch Oesh, which makes running and walking shoes for women only.
In her blog, Kerrigan notes that the widely quoted 1% rule represents an oversimplification of the original investigation by England’s Andrew Jones. Jones is the well-respected exercise physiologist who tested Paula Radcliffe during her career, and recently pioneered work with beet juice as a performance-enhancer.
Please don’t take one piece of literature as an fundamental indication of how biomechanics works. Take a look at some of J Sinclair et al or J Hamill et al’s work on the subject matter as well to diversify your perspective.