Guy on treadmill demonstrates 100 styles of walking

Kevin Parry gets on a treadmill and shows 100 ways of walking: angry, zombie, mad, sneaky, drunk, robot, on vacation, strut, old man, hippy, timid, mime, pushing, in the dark, and so on. Read the rest

Why shoelaces become untied

Why do shoelaces suddenly become untied? Mechanical engineer Oliver O'Reilly and his UC Berkeley colleagues have just published a scientific paper exploring this mystery of the ages. According to O'Reilly, understanding how simple knots work, and then don't, could lead to better knots for surgery, protect undersea optical networking cables from breaking, and enable more realistic animations of hair in computer graphics. From Nature:

The scientists expected that the knots would come undone slowly. But their slow-motion footage — focused on the shoelaces of a runner on a treadmill — showed that the knots rapidly failed within one or two strides. To figure out why, O’Reilly and his colleagues used an accelerometer on the tongue of a shoe to measure the forces acting on a knot. They found that when walking, the combined impact and acceleration on a shoelace totals a whopping 7 gs — about as much as an Apollo spacecraft on reentry to Earth’s atmosphere.

Further experiments demonstrated that simply stomping up and down wasn’t enough for a knot to fail; neither was swinging it back and forth. It took the interlaced effects of the two forces to undo the knot: the repeated impacts loosened it while the changes of direction pulled on the laces.

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Do you ever just go for a walk?

The BBC's Finlo Rohrer laments the "slow death of the purposeless walk," an activity replaced by modern transit and planned, regimented leisure/exercise activities. But there's hope!

Across the West, people are still choosing to walk. Nearly every journey in the UK involves a little walking, and nearly a quarter of all journeys are made entirely on foot, according to one survey. But the same study found that a mere 17% of trips were "just to walk". And that included dog-walking. It is that "just to walk" category that is so beloved of creative thinkers.

"There is something about the pace of walking and the pace of thinking that goes together. Walking requires a certain amount of attention but it leaves great parts of the time open to thinking. I do believe once you get the blood flowing through the brain it does start working more creatively," says Geoff Nicholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking.

"Your senses are sharpened. As a writer, I also use it as a form of problem solving. I'm far more likely to find a solution by going for a walk than sitting at my desk and 'thinking'."

I suspect there is an element of benign self-deception in the idea of a purposeless walk. I walked a lot when I lived in the city, apparently without purpose, but there was concealed purpose in the rhythms and pressures of urban living. You walk to manage your environment, even when there is no destination. Walkable cities subtly help you do this. Read the rest

Omron Digital Pocket Pedometer

I saw that the previously reviewed pedometer was unrecommended and thought I would recommend this one made by Omron. This pedometer is nice as it stores a week of data so you can see how you are doing the whole week if you wear it all the time. It is simple to clip on, and comes with an included safety leash for easy carrying. Unlike some pedometers that have reset buttons that can get pushed inadvertently, I've never reset this one by mistake. The Omron also keeps track of aerobic steps and calories. I accidentally put mine through the washer and then dried it with a hair dryer and found that it still worked and remains a durable step tracker. -- Audrey Watson Omron HJ-112 Pedometer $22 Comment on this at Cool Tools. Or, submit a tool! Read the rest