You’re all aware of my love for wild-haired scientists looking at things that we mere mortals would never address.* This week has revealed at least two bits of inspired intellectual idiocy.
Let’s travel to California (where else?), and meet Christopher Daily-Diamond. Crazy name, crazy guy as they say. He’s a researcher at Berkeley, and headed a team that explored one of the deep mysteries of the universe. The team determined why shoelaces come undone. Yes, you did read that right. Why shoelaces come undone.
Here’s the reason, lest you be fretting unduly. I’ll let Chris tell you in his own words.
‘To untie my shoelaces, I pull on the free end of the bow and it comes undone. The forces that cause this are not from a person pulling the free end but from the inertial forces of the leg swinging back and forth while the knot is loosened from the shoe repeatedly striking the ground.’
Well, no shit Sherlock. And here’s a question for you. The research was done using high speed photography of somebody running on a treadmill, wasn’t it? Then how come my shoelaces undo themselves when I can only walk barely faster than a snail on Quaaludes? Tell me that if you’re such a clever devil.
The good doctor justified this charming bit of scientific whimsy thus. ‘When you talk about knotted structures, if you start to understand the shoelace, then you can apply it to other things, like DNA… that fail under dynamic forces.’ Hmm, and there I was under the assumption that DNA is one of the most stable natural molecules going. They isolated it from mammoth remains after all.
Over to Oxford now, and Dr Sammy de Grave. He and his fellow pointy heads looked at the pistol shrimp. This has an enlarged claw that it can snap at high speed, and this creates a high pressure cavitation bubble**, and when it collapses it creates a sound level of up to 210 dB. This is powerful enough to stun or kill small fish, but I reckon also it would impress your mates down The Happy Snapper when you’ve had a few.
This is where things take a slightly odd turn, as if studying noisy shrimps wasn’t odd enough. He named this new species Synalpheus pinkfloydi. Yes, he’s a big Floyd fan, and paid homage to them by naming a crustacean after them.
Given the racket, he should have named the critter Manowar. This band, originally featuring Ross the Boss from the Dictators, has twice been credited with loudest rock band in the world, in 1984 and 1994. Also the name would have added a pleasing marine symmetry, don’t you think?
*This from a man who once trained goldfish to recognise simple geometric shapes.
**The nerd in me tells me it’s strictly a droplet, since it has only an internal surface, and a bubble has an internal and an external surface.