Outperforming Humans – Speed

By Anupum Pant

Humans can use tools, communicate, count, make others laugh, socialize and are self aware too. We also have emotions and a pretty good memory. All of the things put into a single creature sure makes the “most advanced” creature we’ve ever known. But if these traits are considered individually, you’ll easily find an animal who beats us at one trait at a time. Today, I wanted to read and write about where humans stand when it comes to speed.

Talk about running speeds and the fastest person ever, Usain Bolt comes to my mind. A bolt indeed. As on date, if I’m not wrong, the world record set by him in the 100m race is 9.58 seconds. To put this human freak show into perspective, the average speed of the Jamaican sprinter in this race comes to about 37 km per hour (23 miles per hour).  And he’s clocked 28 mph somewhere in the race, they say.

In a world full of cars and planes, where distances travelled have become really huge, 28 mph sounds like a speed which does no good in our practical lives. And yet, it takes an Olympic runner to clock that speed. Normally, people run at about, say 10 mph. Damn!
The biological human limit to running speeds is estimated to be about 40 mph.

Quick fact: The fastest human objects ever are Helios 2 (a German probe) clocks about 150,000 mph. Another spacecraft, Juno does about 25 miles in a single second!

Now compare that with a Peregrine Falcon which can make use of the gravity and its perfectly aerodynamic body to travel at a speed of 216 mph (360 kph). But, that’s hardly any work for the animal. It’d the gravity making it fall.

In level flight, the white throated needletail (swift) can fly at speeds more than 100 miles per hour (up to 106). That’s the fastest bird if you do not count gravity assist.

An on land, of course the Cheetah takes the prize with about 70 mph of running speed. But, there’s a catch. If you measure speeds of animals relative to their body sizes, there’s a little blood sucking mite that beats cheetah by a huge margin.

The fastest swimming fish is the sailfish, which can swim and jump for small distances at about 70 mph.

Humans can swim at about 5 miles per hour.

Moving at 35 miles per hour a jack rabbit can travel faster than a human. The patas monkey, the fastest primate, runs at about 35 miles per hour too!

Now these are some animals you probably already know. Soon there’s more to come. In the coming days I wish to do a series on outperforming humans…Maybe I’ll write about endurance next.

Keep reading for more.

Helium Balloon in a Car

By Anupum Pant


Whenever I choose to write about Helium, there’s something I almost never forget to mention – Helium is precious (Click to know why). So, if you’ve read that, you’ll know that you shouldn’t use it in party balloons, nor should you use it to make your voice sound funny. These are the most silliest things you could do with a borderline non-renewable resource. However, if someone uses it in party balloons to make science look cool to 5-year-old, it’s beautiful.

The Experiment

Destin, a super-cool dad, from the YouTube channel Smarter every day, did exactly that. This is what he did:

Pendulum in a car: First, he tied a pendulum to the roof of his car. Then he accelerated the car. As everyone must have guessed, the pendulum moved back as the car accelerated. It’s natural for our brains to assume that everything would move back in an accelerating vehicle.

Helium Balloon in a car: Next, he tied a balloon filled with Helium to the base of the car. Then, right when he was about to accelerate his car, he asked his 5 year olds sitting in the back seat – “Where do you think the balloon would go if I accelerate?”

Answer the question before proceeding, and reason it if you can. (Even if you don’t know it, it’s easier to guess it right now because of the build up I gave in the previous paragraphs)

The Answer

Unless you already have dealt with this “anomaly”, it’s pretty tough to guess that the balloon would actually move forward as the car accelerates. Yes, it moves forward! Something moving forward in an accelerating car sounds counter intuitive. I knew it because someone had asked me it in a physics puzzle sometime back. Just for the record, I had answered it wrong then. There’s no way I could have guessed, or reasoned it accurately the first time. Did you?

The balloon seems to be defying the laws of physics. But a helium balloon moving forward as the car accelerates can be completely explained by physics. It’s just our brain fooling us again.

Simple Analogy

Here’s how Destin explains it with a simple analogy – using a glass jar filled incompletely with water (so there’s an air bubble inside). Assume that the glass jar is like the car. The water in it, is like the air in the car. And the Helium balloon is like the air bubble in the jar – Since an air bubble is lighter than water, it is safe to assume that because even Helium is lighter than the air.

Now when the jar accelerates forward, the water in the jar moves back – so does the air in the car. As a result, the air in the jar moves forward – just like the Helium balloon does.

Here, watch the video if that sounds too confusing…

Most of you probably know this. But I’m sure that many don’t. Moreover I found the video really cute – A super cool dad explaining science to his little kids in a car. Plus they ask you to go to their audible link that would get you a free audio book. At the same time, it would help a cool dad fund his children’s education. My heart melted. If nothing, the video will at least make you smile.

Everyone Knows Magnet in a Copper Tube, But this…

By Anupum Pant

I’m sure you know that if you let a strong magnet drop along a thick copper tube, the magnet falls in a very interesting manner. It falls slower than it normally should, delaying the span of the fall, as if gravity acting on the magnet mysteriously drops. If you haven’t heard about it, I’ll give it to you, you probably aren’t a YouTube addict, and that’s definitely good (and maybe also bad because there’s awesome stuff out there which you are missing). Just watch this, what I just said will start making sense…

Why does this happen?

OK, that’s pretty cool, but you knew about this little magnet-copper trick already, and you were expecting something more? You got it.

Whatever you just saw neither was a magic trick, nor was the Copper tube acting as an anti-gravity machine. This is pure science, can be easily explained by it. Here…

When a magnet moves quickly near a metal, it generates current in the metal. Here, current is generated in the Copper tube.
The current generated in the tube generates another magnetic field which opposes the magnetic field of the magnet and pushes the magnet upwards, away from the force of gravity. Gravity being stronger, pulls it down, but not with as much force because the magnet is being pushed in the other direction too. That’s the simple science behind it.
Still, someone else could explain it better on a page which is completely dedicated to explain it to you. [Here] and [Here]

But, you probably knew even that -The trick and the science behind it. So, there’s more for your-kind-of-people.

A new skill-toy that uses the same…

Feel flux. An amazing new skill toy that works on the same principle. Who would have thought, playing with gravity could get fun. The crowd funding campaign for it runs on indiegogo. Go fund it!