Tag: muscle

Snakes: What makes them slither?

If you had no legs or arms, wouldn’t it be difficult to get from place to place? However, snakes don’t have any legs and they get around just fine! Almost all land animals had legs to propel themselves forward, so how do snakes move so effectively? The biology of a snake involves a series of ribs and muscles that contort a snake’s body to push itself forward. Not only does the snake’s internal makeup allow it to move, but also its exterior. Snakeskin has frictional properties which allow it to remain stationary along an incline with just a few scales in contact with a surface!

Snake moving from branch to branch.
Photo by Krzysztof Niewolny on pixabay.

A snake’s ability to slither across the ground is made possible by its ability to bend using a series of muscles along their body. The scientific term for this bending motion is lateral and vertical bending. A snake uses lateral bending to change direction or propel itself forward along a flat surface. Vertical bending is employed when a snake is pushing off a surface intending to move upward, such as in a tree or on a steep rocky slope. Using the terrain upon which the snake is traversing, the snake is able to propel itself forward by pushing off uneven ground, sand, branches, or other obstacles. 

Snakes have a series of hundreds of ribs that run along the entire length of their body. Not only do their ribs provide a firm foundation for the snake to push itself off of the ground, but they also provide structural support for the snake to traverse gaps along a surface such as holes, tree branches, or other places where a snake cannot use bending to move. With respect to slithering, the ribs of a snake allow it to bend and coil to get the best contact with the ground.

Close-up of snakeskin showing the layout of scales along the body of a snake.
Photo by Paul Brennan on pixabay.

However, it is not just the forces that snakes apply to the ground that allow them to move, but also the makeup of their skin. Snakeskin has frictional properties that allow them to get a better grip on the surface upon which they move. For example, if a surface is slippery or at a steep incline, a snake can increase the surface area their skin covers by changing the angle their scales come into contact with a surface. 

Understanding how snakes move without the use of legs is important for engineering applications. Legless robotics can be designed using the concept of the biomechanics behind the movement of snakes. For example, this could be implemented in terrestrial rovers that can travel across uneven terrain.  In addition, materials science applications for purposes of gripping can mimic snakeskin for higher friction abilities. This would be greatly beneficial for sports, military, or medical equipment where gripping ability determines overall usability. 

Video by Snake Discovery on Youtube
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Let Kids Be Kids: The Unnecessary Dangers of Youth Sports Specialization

The allure of athletic success is hard to ignore in today’s society. The opportunities, notoriety, and wealth that come along with prowess in a particular sport are certainly enticing and have contributed to a growing trend towards youth sports specialization, where athletes focus on one sport from a very young age. And while the work ethic of these young athletes is admirable, their reasoning and that of their parents is a bit flawed.

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Do Humans Get Weaker in Outer Space?

We have entered an era of renewed excitement regarding human space travel. The international community has lofty goals for the future of human spaceflight: returning to the Moon, sending crewed missions to Mars and other planets, and even colonizing space to save the human race when Earth is no longer habitable. These goals are beyond exciting, but before we can safely accomplish any of them, we must understand the biological consequences of space travel. For instance, it is well documented that space travel causes muscle atrophy, or deterioration. What causes this atrophy, and can how it be prevented?

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Packing a punch: Does strength indicate boxing performance?

Every sport has a different “ideal” body type, which is largely dictated by the muscle groups it focuses on training. Swimmers prioritize developing the muscles in their shoulders and backs, which allows them to propel themselves through the water with their arms. On the other hand, runners prioritize the hamstrings and quads in their legs, which allows them to generate greater force when pushing off of the ground. So, what is the ideal body type for boxing? Strength is clearly important when punching an opponent, but is it even the most important factor in boxing performance? Should either upper- or lower-body strength be prioritized over the other?

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Dolphin Magic or Dolphin Muscle?

Because of the film Bee Movie, many people at one point were intrigued by the idea that bumblebees should not physically be able to fly due to their large bodies and tiny wings. But, they fly anyway. Technology is advanced enough to study bee wing movement and determine that they produce enough lift to allow them to fly, disproving the previous notion. Similarly, Gray’s Paradox for a long time inferred that dolphins should not be able to swim nearly as fast as they do. But, they still consistently swim at speeds over twenty miles per hour. It was not until recent history that advancements allowed researchers to determine why they are able to reach such high speeds.

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Heads Up and Eyes Steady – The Optimized Mechanism for Human Running

In the insightful words of Bruce Springsteen, we as human beings were Born to Run. Humans have never been a sedentary species. The tendency to constantly relocate for survival purposes required skill in obtaining food efficiently, which heavily influenced early human evolution. Humans with optimal body mechanics for running ultimately held an advantage in hunting and gathering for food, and over time, the human body adapted to these survival requirements and developed a self-optimizing mechanism for running. This implies that initiating the act of running activates certain responses in the body to perform most efficiently.

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Muscle Loss Due to Aging

It is a well-known fact that as we get old, our bodies (sadly) deteriorate, leaving us unable to perform certain physical functions as easily as we could have when we were younger. In this article, the authors describe a study done to analyze muscle loss due to aging, primarily by examining two different age groups of humans. By conducting measurements on people over and under the age of 40 years, results show a clear difference in muscle mass and strength between the two.

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High Heels: How They Can Affect You Even After You Take Them Off

Anyone who has worn high heels, or has even simply seen a person in high heels, knows that the foot is definitely not in its usual position in that kind of shoe – walking is more difficult and forget about even trying to run in high heels. Researchers from Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Vienna wanted to investigate if frequent, long term use of high heels caused lasting changes in the calf, in addition to the normal discomfort experienced by high heel wearers.

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Why your Muscles Hurt after a Workout

How often do we cut our overly ambitious workouts short because of exhaustion or muscle soreness? Probably more than we care to admit. But have you ever stopped to ask yourself why your muscles hurt, especially a day or two after your workout? The simple answer is, you’ve put so much strain on your muscles that you aren’t used to, so they tore, and now your body has to repair the tears and build up more muscle, so the same thing doesn’t happen in the future.

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