Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘video’

08 OCTOBER, 2012

How Bird Wings Work

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Explaining “the masterpiece of nature, the perfectest venture imaginable” with computational fluid dynamics.

To the common eye, it appears that when they fly, birds just flap their wings down and push themselves up by creating flat pressure underneath. But, in fact, something radically different and absolutely fascinating happens — something Destin of Smarter Every Day explains with computational fluid dynamics:

Feathers, indeed, are among evolution’s greatest masterpieces of design. In the recently released Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle (public library), conservation biologist Thor Hanson marvels:

Animals with backbones, the vertebrates, come in four basic styles: smooth (amphibians), hairy (mammals), scaly (reptiles, fish), or feathered (birds). While the first three body coverings have their virtues, nothing competes with feathers for sheer diversity of form and function. They can be downy soft or stiff as battens, barbed, fringed, fused, flattened, or simple unadorned quills They range from bristles smaller than a pencil point to the thirty-five-foot breeding plumes of the Ongadori, an ornamental japanese fowl. Feathers can conceal or attract. They can be vibrantly colored without using pigment. They can store water or repel it. They can snap, whistle, hum, vibrate, boom, and whine. They’re a near-perfect airfoil and the lightest, most efficient insulation ever discovered. … Natural scientists from Aristotle to Ernst Mayr have marveled at the complexity of feather design and utility, analyzing everything from growth patterns to aerodynamics to the genes that code their proteins. Alfred Russel Wallace called feathers ‘the masterpiece of nature…the perfectest venture imaginable,’ and Charles Darwin devoted nearly four chapters to them in Descent of Man, his second great treatise on evolution.

Doobybrain

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30 AUGUST, 2012

How To Run Right

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You’ve been doing it wrong — 5 do’s and don’ts.

Last month brought us the premiere of BOOKD, a new bi-weekly video series exploring “game-changing books.” After discussing the most important food politics book of the past half-century, they’ve turned their lens to Christopher McDougall’s 2011 bestseller Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen (public library), which looks at the most popular athletic activity in the world and argues that we might have been doing it wrong all along.

Here, Harvard evolutionary biology professor Daniel Lieberman offers 5 do’s and don’ts for how to run right:

  1. DON’t overstride. Don’t land with your foot in front of your knee — it makes you decelerate and lose energy and sends a shockwave of impact up your body.
  2. DO land with a flat foot. Land — gently — on the ball of your foot or with a midfoot strike, not on your heel.
  3. DO run vertically. Don’t lean forward at the hips.
  4. DON’t “thump.” If you’re making a lot of noise, you’re running poorly.
  5. DO ease into it. Listen to pain. Don’t overdo it. If you transition to run properly too fast, you’re guaranteed to injure yourself — you need to adapt your body.

Catch the full episode below, and dive deeper with the book itself.

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19 JULY, 2012

Einstein, Gödel, and the Science of Time Travel

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Meeting your future grandchildren in a rotating universe.

The fabric of time remains among the most fascinating frontiers of science, and the concept of time travel among the most prolific plot lines of science fiction. In this short video from THNKR, who also brought us the BOOKD series on paradigm-shifting books, theoretical physicist Ronald Mallett goes against the present scientific consensus and argues, by way of Einstein and Gödel’s theories, that time travel might, indeed, be possible. Whether in a century we’ll look back and laugh at the wild misguidedness of his proposition or at its blatant obviousness, only time will tell.

Gödel actually showed that if we were living in a rotating universe, this universe could create loops in time — and by “loops in time” I mean you actually have a timeline that’s normally a straight line of past, present, and future, that’s turned into a loop — and you can actually go along that loop in time and go back into the past. And he based his work squarely on Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

It’s Okay To Be Smart

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