"Reporting in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers describe a new predatory dinosaur from the late Cretaceous period in Europe. Balaur bondoc (Romanian for "stocky dragon") is huskier than its closest relative the Velociraptor and has unusual feet."
Courtesy perpetualplumHave you ever run barefoot? It’s great! I’ve never really thought about why I like it, but some really cool biomechanics research coming out of Harvard suggests that there may be some evolutionary reasons for my enjoyment. Homo sapiens and our early ancestors have engaged in endurance running for more than a million years, and have done so with no shoes, or with minimal footwear (sandals, moccasins, etc.). The researchers wanted to know how these early humans (and some humans today, let’s not forget) were able to run comfortably and safely sans shoes. Daniel Lieberman, professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard, and his crew found that barefoot runners land either on the balls of their feet or mid-foot (the balls of their foot and heel at the same time), while shod runners land on their heels, or heel-strike, to use the lingo. This makes sense when you look at the structure of our feet; our strong, high arch acts like a spring when we run, and this spring can only be loaded when we first land on our forefoot. It wasn’t until the 1970’s when running shoes came equipped with highly cushioned heels that it began to seem normal to run heel-to-toe. (Some research even suggests that not just running shoes, but all shoes are detrimental to our foot health)
With some super advanced equipment (Harvard undergrads are so lucky), Lieberman saw how much of an impact heel-striking causes. When you heel-strike, your foot comes to a dead stop, causing your foot and leg to have to absorb all of that kinetic energy (a force which is 2-3 times your body weight). When you land on your forefoot, however, some of that kinetic energy is converted into rotational energy as your foot goes from toe to heel. This is obviously much less jolting. The researchers hypothesize that heel-striking is the cause of a lot of running-related repetitive stress injuries, and by avoiding heel-striking, more runners could see less of these types of injuries.
If you want to try running barefoot (and I recommend), Lieberman cautions that you shouldn’t just jump into it (especially if it is February in Minnesota), but rather start slowly. Running barefoot uses different muscles and it takes a little while for your feet to get used to it if you’ve been a shod runner your whole life. Who knows, your feet may be your new favorite shoes.
Ever look down at your feet and wonder why your toes look and move the way they do? You might even have heard the myth that having a second toe longer than your first (something orthopaedic surgeon Dudley Morton dubbed Morton's Toe) means you are more likely to be a criminal, or part of a royal family.
While having toes of different lengths (some longer or shorter than others) is completely normal, some people are so concerned about the size and shape of their toes that they get them shortened by a cosmetic surgeon. Other people need surgery on their toes and feet because the shape makes walking painful.
We all have toes of slightly different shapes and sizes, but did you know that human beings as a whole have comparatively shorter toes than most primates, including our closest relative, the chimpanzee? Compare us to other animals like cats and dogs, and you'll notice that their toes are REALLY short compared to the rest of their paws. What's going on here?
The researchers behind a new paper about the evolution of human toes think that the answer to why humans evolved such short toes might be related to long-distance running. According to researchers, having shorter toes - along with a number of other adaptations - probably gave our ancestors an edge when it came to endurance running, which was necessary to kill and eat large animals. This article from Wired Science explains:
"...many modern anatomical features make sense in the context of savannah marathons. Achilles tendons act as springs to store energy. Our hind limbs have extra-large joints. Our buttocks muscles are perfect for stabilization, as are regions of the brain uniquely sensitive to the physical pitching generated by the motion of running. Toes may belong to this class of adaptations."
I've never been able to run a marathon, but this is still pretty cool news. Now, you might be asking yourself what will happen over time to the shape of human toes now that we no longer have to run down our dinner? According to toe researcher Campbell Rolian, "that's generally a question you could ask about many features of the human anatomy," said Rolian. Because it isn't required to push off, he said, "There's talk about whether the pinkie toe is eventually going to disappear."
Not the pinkie toe?! That one is my favorite.
Source: Wired Science
Courtesy Puget Sound PartnershipA mystery has been unfolding in British Columbia over the past year. Since August 2007, seven body-less feet have been found washed up on the banks of the Frasier River and Georgia Strait. The most recent foot was discovered on November 11 by a couple walking along the Frasier River. One of the feet has been identified by DNA as belonging to a missing man. Investigators are looking to missing persons reports in an attempt to identify the other feet.
Some people have found the fact that many of the feet were in tennis shoes and were right feet to be suspicious, but authorities believe that the body parts are most likely from natural deaths and have travelled by ocean currents to the shore. Forensic analysts agree with a scenario in which the feet disarticulated naturally from the bodies, with the tennis shoes keeping the feet afloat while other body parts likely sank. Is this a hoax, a serial killer who has a big problem with sneakers or just an odd and icky manifestation of natural deaths? You can find more information in this article Another severed foot washes up on B.C. coast. And, to see what local British Columbians think is going on, or if you enjoy some morbid humor and a foot pun or twelve, check out the comments section of this article.
They’re not just bad for politicians – they’re bad for your feet.
A New York podiatrist was quoted: “Flip-flops have single handedly caused more problems with people’s feet in the last couple of years than any other type of shoe.” He went on to say he sees five to ten cases of flip-flop related foot problems a week at his office.
Testimonials were also given by those who’ve had medical problems due to flip-flops. One woman told how she slipped on wet pavement and broke ankle. Another said that she stepped on spilled cottage cheese at a grocery store and snapped her foot after an embarrassing fall.
The big problem with flip-flops, the experts reported, is that they give absolutely no support to the bottom of a foot. Without that support, the foot is able to twist and turn any which way, leading to sprains, breaks and falls. Also, the thin, flat soles of flip-flops provide virtually no shock-absorbing qualities to feet and legs while walking. Sustained wearing of flip-flops can lead to nerve damage in the foot and ankle area.
One other warning from the foot doctor, don’t wear flip-flops while driving a car. Since they’re barely connected to your feet, it’s possible and easy for them to slip off and get lodged in the gas or brake pedals of a car.
One other item to keep in mind, the doctor pointed out: It’s a good practice to vary your footwear from day to day. The variety of soles and shapes will keep your feet healthier and more comfortable each day.
What do you think about flip-flops and their potential dangers? Share your thoughts here with other Science Buzz readers.
German police broke into a Kaiserslautern apartment this week after neighbors reported an extremely foul smell seeping into the stairwell. The shutters had been closed up for nearly a week, and mail was collecting in the unit’s box, so the police were prepared to find a very dead body in the apartment. They found no such thing.
What the officers did discover was a pile of very dirty laundry next to a pair of very stinky feet, which were attached to a man who was simply asleep.
How did this happen to the man? Well, foot odor, technically referred to as “stank,” is caused by sweaty feet and bacteria. A warm, moist foot is an ideal place for bacteria to live, and while the mere presence of bacteria on a foot won’t cause a bad smell, the waste they produce from consuming dead skin and sweat will. As your feet get sweatier, more and more bacteria grow down there, and they produce more and more waste, creating an increasingly potent stank.
One of the main culprits of foot odor is brevibacteria. Bervibacteria loves the spots between your toes, and the dead skin on the soles of your feet, and it produces methanethiol, which smells like stinky cheese. This is no coincidence, as stinky cheese gets its aroma from brevibacteria too.
Now, if any of you are in doubt as to whether this foot-based bacterial chemical factory can be so powerful that it could convince your neighbors that you are decomposing in your living room, let me relate to you the true story of my best friend’s freshman roommate. This roommate, who we will call “Jeff,” had feet of such potent stank that the whole hallway of the dormitory smelled like a gym shoe by October. It was so bad that the floor RA threatened to evict my friend and Jeff from the room on health grounds unless the smell was cleared up, “whatever it was.” It is extremely unlikely that Jeff was dead and decomposing, too, because he was often seen walking around, or drinking. I was able to experience the smell firsthand – walking into the room was like having a sweatsock taped over your nose, and this was when “it was starting to get better.” Jeff, however, never noticed the smell, and was convinced that a joke was being played on him.
The moral here, obviously, is to wash your feet often and buy well-ventilated footwear, or else the police will break into your house looking for your dead body. And nobody wants that.