Stories tagged walking

May
06
2014

Charles Darwin's Thinking Path: The naturalist spent much time here formulating his revolutionary ideas.
Charles Darwin's Thinking Path: The naturalist spent much time here formulating his revolutionary ideas.Courtesy Public domain via Wikipedia
Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche claimed that all "truly great thoughts" were conceived while taking them. Paleontologist Robert Bakker admitted that scientists needed them. Which is why Charles Darwin took them in the privacy of his own backyard. And scientists weren't the only ones who took them. Vincent van Gogh loved to take them when he wasn't painting wildly frenetic scenes on canvas, and composer Ludwig von Beethoven took them all the time - sometimes in his underwear!

What, you may ask, were they taking? Drugs? Magic elixirs? Naps?

Nope. None of these. They were all taking walks.

Through the centuries some of the world's greatest ideas came about during the physical act of taking a walk. Charles Darwin even had a special path called Sandwalk constructed adjacent to his Down House property and lined it with stones. It's where he mulled over his hypotheses about natural selection and evolution as he formulated his landmark book, On the Origin of Species. Many of Beethoven's symphonies (e.g The Pastoral Symphony) were inspired by a hike through the woods. Author Henry David Thoreau wrote an entire essay on the subject, particularly walking in the wild.

And now a new study done at Stanford University confirms the anecdotal notion that walking increases your chances of having... well, a notion - an idea or epiphany or some sort of creative breakthrough. According to the Stanford researchers, It didn't matter whether the participants were walking outdoors or inside on a treadmill - it seems the act of waking itself elevated levels of creativity. The effect lasted several minutes after participants stopped walking.

Nearly 180 participants were tested using different combinations of sitting and walking. Subjects were moved around in wheelchairs during the outside sitting segments.

These sessions were followed by four experiments used to test levels creativity, each lasting 5 to 16 minutes depending on the task. Across all tests, the majority of subjects did surprisingly better after walking than sitting. On average, participants who had walked showed a 60 percent improvement over those sitting.

Whether it's specifically the act of walking that raises creativity or if any kind of exercise would produce the same results is the subject for future studies, and could even diminish one of my favorite quotes from humorist Mark Twain: "Golf is a good walk spoiled."

The current study was co-authored by Marily Oppezzo, a doctoral graduate in educational psychology, and professor Daniel Schwartz, of Stanford Graduate School of Education, and appears in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition.

SOURCES and LINKS
Stanford news story
APA press release

Twinkle, twinkle little star, how many of you out there are: Start counting right now and you might have a chance to figure out how many stars are up in the heavens.
Twinkle, twinkle little star, how many of you out there are: Start counting right now and you might have a chance to figure out how many stars are up in the heavens.Courtesy European Space Agency
Here in Minnesota we live the land of political recounts. But in the world of astronomy, a recount on the density of the heavens is leading to the conclusion there might be three times as many stars in the sky than we have thought in the past. Just how many stars are there? You'll have to click this link to get that astronomically large number.

May
13
2009

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'...
Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'...Courtesy nebarnix
This week is National Bike-Walk to Work Week!

That means that in cities across the country people are being encouraged to take at least one trip to work or school on foot or by bicycle. Why? Pick your favorite reason! Mine include: biking and walking save me money, biking and walking are more fun than sitting in traffic, and biking and walking let me see things in my neighborhood up close. If you live in the Twin Cities you can even get free breakfast tomorrow at select locations in honor of Twin Cities Bike Walk to Work Day.

There's no doubt that biking and walking are good for your body, but are biking and walking more energy efficient than driving a car? Sure, you don't need to stop to fill up at a gas station, but something has to power your commute. According to most statistics, bicycles are the most efficient means of transportation in terms of calories, but I also came across this article about one UK environmentalist who claims that walking is worse for the planet than driving, since modern food production is so energy intensive - especially if, like me, you sometimes power your commute with coffee and bacon.

What do you think? What's the most energy efficient way to travel? How do you like to travel to school or work?

Jan
13
2008

Some boring shoes: For walking.
Some boring shoes: For walking.Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
So you plan on getting yourself all healthy just by walking around? That’s a pretty good plan, I suppose. But just how much did you think you’d be walking?

10,000 steps a day? What? Are you dense? Obviously! Dense and overweight! 10,000 steps! Unbelievable…

I’ve been saying for years that 10,000 steps a day is no way to walk yourself skinny, and now I’ve got the backing of an international collection of researchers. According to a group of fourteen scientists from the U.S., Canada, Australia, France and Sweden, to effectively manage your weight through walking, one has to take “more than 10,000 steps a day.” Duh.

Specifically, the researchers think that something like 12,000 steps a day should help manage your weight. The step-counters go on to say that the best way of meeting this number and shaking its sweaty little hand is to keep a stepping journal, and to set goals for yourself. Boring.

Who has the time to keep a step journal? I have so many journals already (dreams, cooking ideas, angry thoughts, sketches of me with various celebrities). I have a better method. Just go straight for the 12,000, but split it up in to chunks you can deal with.

Think about it like this: What are the most important locations for you on an average day? The couch and the bathroom, of course. For me, it’s about 36 steps from the couch to the bathroom and back (40 steps if the dog gets in my way). That means, for me to get my recommended 12,000 steps every day, I just need to remember to get up and go to the bathroom 334 times each day! What could be more simple?

I also encourage a high-fiber diet if you follow my method. And lots of fluids. And cable TV.

Jul
13
2007

Brendan Fletcher and Emma Nicholas: At the end of their road.  Courtesy Brendan Fletcher and Emma Nicholas.
Brendan Fletcher and Emma Nicholas: At the end of their road. Courtesy Brendan Fletcher and Emma Nicholas.
With all of this talk about world wonders lately I thought I should post about some fellow museum bloggers who have just completed an amazing feat. Brendan Fletcher and Emma Nicholas, working with the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia just finished their 3000km (1864 mile) walk along the entire length of the Great Wall of China. Blogging the entire way, they were helping to add a unique perspective to the Powerhouse Museum's exhibit on the Great Wall and I should say they were quite successful.

Make sure to check out their Walking the Wall blog, which has some very interesting stories about what they found along the way.

I'd like to see more museums trying out adventurous blogs like this. We've featured some of our staff out in Antarctica, Madagascar, and I even got to bob along on a scientific drilling ship in the Pacific. What sort of web journals would you like to see from science museum folks, out in the world, adventuring along? Dino dig blog? Astronaut blog? Underground science blog (science of spelunking)? Nuclear reactor blog?

Jul
12
2007

A man toys with evolution: For God's sake, sir, stop before you wear yourself out!
Courtesy CB Photography
A man toys with evolution: For God's sake, sir, stop before you wear yourself out!
Courtesy CB Photography
Sometimes, at least.

A recent study, outlined in this article, has reached the audacious conclusion that people walk the way they do because it’s efficient.

Well.

The “inverted pendulum” motion of the body (the way we walk) is the most metabolically efficient way for us to move at low speeds, and the parabolic arch motion (the way we run) is most the most efficient for higher speeds.

The same article points out that this is why “silly walks” are, in fact, so silly: because they are inefficient.

So it turns out that evolution is practical, but not particularly funny.

I have found, however, that almost all walks are funny, if you can just watch them from an upside-down perspective. This can be tricky, but if you find yourself at the science museum any time soon, I recommend you check out the “eyepod” (our camera obscura) in the Big Back Yard. It projects an image of the prairie maze, upside down, on the wall of the room. When you see people moving through the maze from that unusual perspective, they do look pretty silly.