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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Friday, February 12, 2010

It's Settled -- the Elephant Gait

If you have ever had anxieties about finding yourself being chased by an angry elephant -- outside of the American political kind -- it's been decided. European scientists dropped in at an elephant conservation center that my wife visited during her trip to Thailand a few years ago, and the scientists ran some of the elephants (with their mahouts aboard) around a little circular track outfitted with force plates, high speed cameras, and all the other technological works, and they saw that elephants moving at speed can walk and run at the same time! They can do this because, unlike humans, they are still using all four legs, and their two front ones run while the back ones walk.

The scientists had all sorts of deep explanations for this, but from observing the video it seemed to me that the front legs look slightly crooked as if they're always ready to kneel and take another rest but are forced to take quicker and choppier steps because they're being pushed along by the straighter rear legs that are taking longer and, over the long run, not quite as many strides.

This got me to thinking about the bizarre sport of speed-walking, where the difference between walking and running gets much more subjective, and actually it looks to me as if the competitors are running much more than they are walking, and I wonder if that drastic overworking of their hipbones doesn't bring on bad trouble in the "walkers'" later years.

The elephants' walk-run strategy also brought to my attention the fact that it's been a good many years since I've run anywhere, and right now I suppose that those cruel people. the younger majority in the world, would say that I don't even walk anymore and instead I just shuffle along, "that old man's walk," as my wife sneered long ago, speaking about a couple of other male elderly. But when you have, as I have, an extreme disinterest in falling and breaking something, not to mention the increasing difficulty involved in getting up again, and when you have to be especially careful where I live and spend my days wandering around, with rocks, exposed roots, mole tunnels, various kinds of holes in the ground, and these days ice and snow wherever you go, and not to mention the edges of the carpets in the house, taking slow, short steps always under one's close attention is not a failing but an absolute survival strategy.


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