Friday, March 7, 2014

Icy Physics

Don't get me wrong. I can't skate. The last time I tried I was ten years old and I landed very hard on my head and never went back again. Coward? Maybe.

However, I've had some experience with downhill skiing and after watching this video from Smarter Every Day, I was struck by how many similarity skating and skiing share.

We use hockey stops all the time, and when going down the hill, we ski on our edges. It's not a particularly stable position, but the faster we go, the more stability we have (provided we're in control of our speed). In order to slow down, we ski 'up' the hill, which reminds me just a bit of 'tacking' in sailing. 'Course, I'm not anything like an Olympic skier (I tend to lose my balance if I become airborne) but I can get from point A to point B without falling down.

Just as Destin mentions in the video, we use mathematics all the time. It might be your worst subject in school, but your brain uses it 24 hours a day. Even when you're sleeping, your brain regulates how many times you breathe and your heat beats in a minute to keep you from suffocating. Something as simple as picking up an egg requires a host of mathematical equations. For years, scientists have been attempting to program robots to pick up eggs, but they never seem to be able to achieve just the right pressure to avoid smashing the egg. Even a dog can carry an egg in its mouth without puncturing it.

The human brain is an amazing thing. Not long ago, I was talking to a brain surgeon (no, there's nothing wrong with my brain) and he was describing a certain rare condition called an arachnoid cyst. Arachnoid cysts can form in your brain at birth and are generally harmless, but they range from the size of a quarter to filling one half of your skull. Despite the tiny brain sufferers are left with, there are hardly any symptoms and generally no impact on intelligence. Blows my mind (no pun intended); after all, the human brain is the only brain that is capable of studying itself.

Now I will shut up and let you watch the video (if you haven't already seen it); make sure you watch all the way to the end. I think Reepicheep is adorable with ice skates on (If it doesn't work, you can find it here).


No comments:

Post a Comment