Archive for the ‘M is for Motility’ Category

Superhuman Navy Seals

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Photo via flickr by jurvetson

Humans are terrible swimmers, converting roughly 3 percent of their kicks, strokes and general underwater exertions into forward motion. We can boost our efficiency to 10 percent by adding fins, but dolphins, by comparison, can turn 80 percent of their energy into thrust. Not to be outdone, the Pentagon’s research wing, DARPA, is developing a contraption called PowerSwim that lets Navy SEALs and other combat divers swim faster, and with less effort.

When used properly, the device allows swimmers to cover a given distance up to 150 percent faster than with fins, while using the same amount of energy. Much of that boost in metabolic efficiency is due to the muscle groups used.

As DARPA program manager Barbara McQuiston explained, the swimmer is essentially relaxing into a slightly bent position, instead of forcing or pushing the foils through the water. This takes the emphasis off the small muscle groups used to kick, and allows larger muscle groups, such as the glutes and quads, to take over.

The goal isn’t to increase the total distance that personnel can cover, but to get them there more quickly, and with more energy.

via Popular Mechanics

M is for Motility

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

While the dream of jet packs and flying cars hasn’t gone away, our desire for novel ways to bop around the planet is now aligned to the technological prowess and environmental sensitivity of our times. As smart grids are generated by companies such as GE and IBM, and plug-in hybrids, electric and fuel cell vehicles cruise into the mainstream, the transition to distributive, intelligent energy networks is soon to be joined by vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology, signaling the beginning of 21st century transportation designed with future cities in mind. Showmanship of the self-parking Lexus is just the beginning, as urban designer Mitchell Joachim foresees a range of eco-networked, shape-shifting, transological vehicles ahead: Omnidirectional cars that can stand-up, interlock and charge via electromagnetic street induction; Festo-infused vehicles that fit the body’s muscular motion like a baseball glove; and safe, soft-to-the-touch, bump-friendly vehicles that are destined to schmooze. Motility, the ability to move spontaneously and independently, is essential to our species, and like our predecessors in the bacterial and animal worlds, we are born speedsters, inextricably linked to the devices that make us mobile. And while we step onto this magnetic-propelled Maglev train of innovation, it’s certain that our perception of time will move at the speed of an electron, as each one of us glide into the galaxy to explore where no man has gone before.