Skipping on the Moon – fun maybe, but is it efficient?

March 22nd, 2018

History has shown* that astronauts, or more accurately lunarnauts, often like to skip about when they’re on the Moon. But, fun though it might seem, is skipping (in reduced gravity situations) an efficient way to get around?

Research teams from the Laboratory of Physiomechanics of Locomotion, Department of Pathophysiology and Transplantation, University of Milan, Italy, and PDU Biomechanics, Centro Universitario de Paysandú, Universidad de la República, Uruguay, have – for the first time – performed experiments to find out.

In the absence of a convenient low-gravity environment, they instead used earthbound skippers who were supported by bungee-jumping rubber cords to see how this “almost dismissed gait” stacked up against more everyday gaits such as walking and running.

“From a metabolic perspective, our results show that bouncing gaits benefit in low gravity more than walking, and that skipping reports the highest gain in cost reduction, reaching values for terrestrial walking. This could partly explain astronauts’ choice during Apollo 14 and 17 missions of skipping gait while moving on the Moon.”

The researchers predict that skipping will be useful if lunarnauts ever return to the Moon.

“It is likely that skipping will be used also for steering and moving in circles on the lunar surface, as it is an asymmetrical gait that quadrupeds deterministically use to turn (in the direction of the leading limb of the front pair first, then followed by the hindlimbs), as observable in show jumping competition.”

See: Skipping vs. running as the bipedal gait of choice in hypogravity in the Journal of Applied Physiology, Volume 119, Issue 1, 2015

* Notes:

[1] A supplementary video, from which the still above is taken, is available here in .mov format.

[2] One of the co-authors of this new study, Alberto E. Minetti, co-won the 2013 Ig Nobel Physics Prize for a paper about running on water on the Moon:

[3] And another winner of the same prize, Nadia Dominici, will be discussing aspects of the running-on-water-on-the-Moon project at the Ig Nobel show next week at EPLF, in Lausanne, Switzerland (March 27th, 2018).

Does leg length play a determinative role for success in ballet? [research study]

March 19th, 2018

A unique 2009 research project quantified (for the first time) the changes in elevation angles of ballet dancers’ legs between 1946 and 2004. Now a new study has examined (again for the first time) leg-length in relation to selected ballet performance indicators.

“The aim of the present study was to investigate the relationships between leg length and selected dance movements representative of power, dexterity, and range motion, in a sample of female ballet dancers ranging from recreational to professional standards.”

The researchers found that long legs (when thought of as long levers) :

“[…] are advantageous only when the associated muscles are strong enough to bring about their maximum function.”

Furthermore :

“A shorter leg can cope with inertia better than a longer one, as the later requires greater muscular strength in order to move.”

Thus, in conclusion :

“We found no clear evidence that leg length plays a determinative role for success in ballet.”

See: Leg-Length in Relation to Selected Ballet Performance Indicators in Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 32 Number 3: Page 165 (September 2017).

Also See: Attractiveness of Leg Length (updated)

The photo shows ballerinas Pierina Legnani as Medora (right) and Olga Preobrajenskaya as Gulnare (left) in the scene Le jardin animé from the ballet Le Corsaire, 1899.

The PIZZA & POPCORN issue of the Annals of Improbable Research

March 17th, 2018

The special Pizza & Popcorn Questions issue (vol. 24, no. 1) of the Annals of Improbable Research is now available.

The issue’s table of contents is online. And you can obtain, for a pittance, the full issue. The magazine is in splendid PDF form, packed with info yet lighter by far than a feather or a popcorn kernel.

The Evolution of Popcorn” is a featured article. Lead author Russ Hodge will discuss the evolution of popcorn, when he joins the Ig Nobel EuroTour. Hodge will be part of the events in Berlin (March 19), Langen (March 21), and  Heidelberg (March 23). Come see and hear him!

Emily Hofstetter joins Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Social Scientists

March 17th, 2018

Emily Hofstetter has joined the Luxuriant Flowing, Former, or Facial Hair Club for Social Scientists™ (LFFFHCfSS). She says:

While considering an academic career, I quickly realized that an ability to afford hair cuts was a necessary sacrifice, and have been practicing said asceticism ever since. As of 2018 my hair reaches my knees, and I can but pray my wisdom grows with the same dogged persistence. My locks hide tidily in a bun most days, allowing me to reveal my hair in a highly effective display whenever I wish to astonish students and emphasize the effects of Goffmanian front and performance in everyday life.

Emily Hofstetter, Ph.D., LFHCfS
Interactional Researcher
Loughborough University, Loughborough Leicestershire, UK
and University College, London, UK


Harvesting Midges for Fertilizer (research study)

March 15th, 2018

In many parts of the world, e.g. N. W. Scotland, New Zealand, British Columbia and Nova Scotia (etc etc) there are almost incalculable numbers of pesky biting midges. A colossal nuisance to tourists and locals alike. But perhaps they could be put to good use – by capturing them and then using them as fertilizer? Researcher Amer Aldahi at the University of Sheffield, UK, believes so. In an experimental setup, he used a ‘Predator’ octanol-based midge collector and collected midges in prodigious amounts.

[…] wet midge biomass was evaluated here for its fertilizer potential. Such biomass could be applied to soils directly or after a period of composting and could be used alone or together with waste plant materials. One could envisage large amounts of such biomass being produced by individuals or perhaps council-run midge collectors (and co-operatives) and, as a result, relatively large amounts of material could be made locally available to farmers and the public. Transport costs might however, limit the wide-spread collection and use of midge biomass on an industrial scale. Certainly however, an individual octanol-based collector, when located in a high midge area, could supply useable nitrogen fertiliser to homes, allotments, and even small to medium sized fruit and commercial fruit and vegetable growers. The production costs of midge biomass could be offset by local authorities, hotels or other tourist locations, where the waste is produced when attempts are being made to reduce the tourist-nuisance potential of vast numbers of midges or mosquitoes.”


Note: The midge mountain photo is provided courtesy of MidgeBusters of Dunoon, Argyll, Scotland, from whom you can purchase a Predator.