Stories tagged strength


Hey, wait a second...: How could you ever balance one of those on a pencil? Bad science!
Hey, wait a second...: How could you ever balance one of those on a pencil? Bad science!Courtesy Matthieu ::
All y’all up on graphene?

I knew you were. You’re Buzzketeers, the best of the best, the biggest of the brains, the coolest of the cids.

There’s no need to explain graphene to this team (the Lil’ Professors), so it would be totally unnecessary for me to point out that graphene is a fancy material made of a single layer of carbon atoms attached to each other in a honeycomb pattern. It’s about as flat as can be, and when you roll it up you get those little things Science Buzz is so crazy about: carbon nanotubes.

Nanotubes are awesome, and if you click on the link above you can learn about all the awesome things they can do. But graphene…graphene itself may be pretty awesome too. The problem with testing just how awesome graphene is is that it has been exceptionally difficult to a) make a piece of graphene so small that it hasn’t got any of the imperfections that naturally come in large chunks of things, and b) make a device to actually hold the itty bitty graphene well enough to really test the stuff out.

But science has now done those things! Using a tiny sheet of perfect graphene (about 1/100s the width of a human hair) and a really tiny diamond…poker-thing (about 10 billionths of a meter wide), scientists have finally been able to find out exactly how strong graphene is.

So, how strong is it? It’s the strongest! That is to say, the strongest material measured so far. It’s about 200 times the strength of structural steel, or, says Columbia Professor James Hone, “It would take an elephant, balanced on a pencil, to break through a sheet of graphene the thickness of Saran Wrap.”

This statement, of course, wins professor Hone July’s “Awesome explanation, Scientist” award. That’s a good mental image, and it shows a non-scientist like me how strong graphene is.

So…awesome explanation, Scientist! More of that, please!


The Chimpanzee: A nightmare creature.
The Chimpanzee: A nightmare creature.Courtesy Wikimedia commons
This isn't really news, but I think it's important that people know about it.

So, I was looking at Thor's recent post on chimpanzee memory, and its associated poll "Do you think you could beat a chimp in a test of memory?", and I started thinking (which is unusual for me, so I decided to run with it).

I decided that the answer to whether or not I could out-remember a chimp is a solid "no." I could maybe out-remember a goldfish, if only because you probably couldn't keep feeding me until I died, but that's about it. I got to wondering, then, if I could beat a chimp at anything. Like, what if the memory game went sour, and me and Bubbles had to square off? Could I best a chimp in a battle of strength, if not wits?

So here are the contenders:

JGordon, in the blue shorts, six feet of cotton/poly blend, weighing in at a slender one hundred, forty-four pounds. Fighting skills: next to zero, but he's seen a lot of movies, and has a thick skull.

And in the red shorts, Pogo, chimp.
-An aside: I am a firm believer that picking on anyone my own size should be avoided, so, even though adult male chimps can grow (in captivity) to over 170 pounds, my hypothetical opponent will be an average-to-large female chimp, some where in the neighborhood of 120 pounds.-

Anyway, in red shorts, the lady chimp, Poga! Three and a half feet tall, and one hundred twenty pounds! Fighting skills: zero, but her appearance is distractingly hilarious.

So, when the bell rings, what happens?

By all accounts, it does not go well for me.

Chimps, according to every source I could find, are frighteningly strong - something like seven times stronger than an adult human. Possibly stronger than that, even. Being chimps, it's difficult to get them to just show us how much they can bench, but according to this source at least one study has been done to test chimps' pulling strength. In the test, a 165 pound male chimp pulled, with one arm, 847 pounds. And this isn't even necessarily the limit of its strength - it's just when the chimp got bored of pulling. Also - get a load of this - in the same study, a 135 pound female chimp pulled 1,260 pounds! With one arm! I won't get into how much I can lift... but not that much.

So I would lose the fight. But how badly? Well, I couldn't find much on the physical limits of the human body (like "how strong does a chimp have to be to pull my arms off?") but there are some similar cases, which we might use for analogy:

In this horrifying article, we learn that chimps in Uganda have been known to get drunk after raiding illegal beer brewing operations (hidden in national parks), and then attack children visiting the park. According to a biologist studying this unusual behavior, the attacks are carried out thusly: "In most cases they bite off the limbs first before disemboweling them, just as they would the red colombus monkey, which is among their favorite prey."
That doesn't really bear thinking about, plus I'm slightly more robust than your average child, so lets move on...

To this useful article, in which we learn of former NASCAR driver St. James Davis, and his run in with some rowdy chimps. Mr. Davis, it seems, owned a pet chimpanzee for decades before being forced to give it up to an exotic animal sanctuary in California. The pet chimp, Moe, had bitten part of a woman's finger off, but, as Davis said in Moe's defense, "Animals bite, people bite, Mike Tyson bites. So what?" In 2005, St. James Davis and his wife went to visit Moe at the shelter on his birthday. As they were delivering the birthday cake to Moe, however, two chimps from an adjoining cage, Buddy and Ollie, somehow got into Moe's enclosure and attacked Davis. Now, this is a two on one fight, and Buddy and Ollie did get the jump on Davis, but it's a little closer to my imagined cage match. By the time the attacking chimps were subdued (i.e., shot) they had bitten off Davis' nose, and torn off his left foot, most of his fingers, and his, ah, testicles.

So, in short, while there must be activities in which I could defeat a chimpanzee (math maybe, or possibly a foot race), I could not beat one in a fight. And I will never try, because I value my... fingers... so much.