Donald Currey had always dreamed of being a botanist and in 1964 he was a post graduate studying the effects of the The Little Ice Age on vegetation at the University of Carolina. The evidence he needed was to be found in the rings inside old trees which indirectly record the weather each year of the tree’s life. Armed with a special core drill from Sweden, Currey explored the forest of Nevada’s Great Basin National Park and randomly chose a tree to sample. He climbed it’s lower branches, positioned his…read more
In Part 1 I briefly explained that the urge to breathe is regulated by a build up of CO2 sensed by the body, rather than an actual lack of oxygen (that the body cannot directly determine). In this post I look at an example of the complex interactions that occur within the body during apnea and what happens if you try to disturb the balance. One of the ways in which a freediver is able to hold his breath for an apparently impossible time (the current record is over 10…read more
A particularly nice graphic that explains (at an extremely high level) what causes traffic jams. The root cause is a combination of saturation and what’s called a Backwards Travelling Wave. A simple event such as a lane change causes cars behind to slow slightly and every subsequent line to slow further in order to maintain safe distance. The further away from the original event a car is, the slower it will have to go to avoid hitting the cars in front.
Hal Needham is a hell of a guy. He started as a stuntman and double for Burt Reynolds, but went on to direct films like Smokey and the Bandit, run a NASCAR team and break the land speed record and the sound barrier in his Budweiser Rocket car in 1979. Apparently the 48,000 horsepower developed by the rocket was only enough to reach 714 mph and so Needham bought 6 Sidewinder rockets from the Navy and fired them at crucial points during the run to boost the car’s speed To…read more
I recently heard Hal Needham describe the way in which horses are made to fall on film. Now the animal protection society insists that it is done through training, but back in the day the technique was quite horrific : 1. Drill a hole in each of the horses front hooves 2. Pass a cable through each hole and attach the end to a fixed point 3. Run the horse away from the fixed point until the cable goes tight and it’s front legs are stopped dead Apparently they killed…read more
Well, I’m getting pretty good mileage out of this book! OK, here’s a nugget that I’m likely to forget if I don’t write it down : When scientists measured the average speed of runners in the New York Marathon, they discovered that times improved from 19 years old through to a peak at 27. So far so good. What’s surprising is that it’s not until 64 years old that performance drops back to the same as it was at 19.
Inspired by my recent reading into running I will join my friend Paolo on the annual Villa Gentile – Monte Fasce race in 2 weeks time. The distance is only 7.31km, but the change in elevation is 795m, which makes it a vertical slog for which I’m little prepared. Deciding for the baptism of fire approach to training I kicked off my campaign yesterday with a half marathon at 2000m : It was a roundtrip with several hills, but this was the biggest climb : The result is predictably that…read more
In an age where everything is synthesized, I was touched to discover that snake bite anti-venoms are not made in a lab but in a HORSE. Yes, if you’re off for a stroll in the desert, you’ll need the following ingredients : The snake that bit you A horse A syringe A decorative jar Optional : a fridge Instructions : Milk the snake Inject the resulting venom into the horse Wait for the horse’s immune response to kick in Extract blood from the horse Separate out the hemoglobin and put…read more
Since my Mother first told me to “stop crying, it’s only pain”, I’ve always been interested in stories of how we perceive and remember a painful experience. I’ve heard several theories that suggest that we evolved to suppress memories of unpleasant situations in order to ensure that we kept on hunting ferocious animals or repeated the experience of childbirth, but only today did I learn that experiments have been carried out in order to generate empirical evidence. In the Freakonomics podcast Painful Lessons, Kai Ryssdal and Stephen J. Dubner report…read more
It’s common knowledge that it takes a photon about 8 minutes to travel the 150 million km to the earth from the surface of the sun, but did you know that it takes A MILLION YEARS to travel the 696 thousand km from the center of the sun to the surface? The reason is not due to the sun’s gravitational field, but due to the path the photon takes, zigzagging randomly as it is absorbed and reemitted by plasma particles. This was one of the interesting facts from the How…read more