Writing in January's Physics World, Dr Roland Ennos, a biomechanic in the Faculty of Life Sciences at University of Manchester, explains how we need to look beyond obvious answers if we are to understand how our own bodies work.
Explaining why we swing our arms, why we have notched teeth, why our fingernails always break in the same direction, and, still puzzling, why we have fingerprints, Dr Ennos shows how rich the boundary between biology and physics is in, some counter-intuitive but, potentially significant discoveries.
On the fingerprint puzzle, we know that fingerprints are useful to identify people for security and crime detection, but no scientist has ever suggested that fingerprints evolved specifically for this purpose. It has been thought that fingerprints help us to grip more tightly to objects, but tests show that a rough surface does not actually increase the friction of soft materials such as skin.
Fingerprint friction is therefore a mystery that has left Dr Ennos's team testing a number of options - it could be that fingerprints act like the treads on tyres, removing water and so increasing friction under wet conditions. Another possibility is that prints also make the skin more flexible and stop it blistering.
As Dr Ennos writes, "The answers to these questions may appear obvious or even trivial, but further thought and experiment is revealing that our world is far more fascinating than we could have dreamed."
What's more, this sort of research, unlike many areas of physics, is not expensive or mathematically hard. "All you need is an enquiring mind, a bit of ingenuity and the courage to ask awkward questions," concludes Dr Ennos.
Joe Winters | EurekAlert!
One-way roads for spin currents
23.05.2018 | Singapore University of Technology and Design
Tunable diamond string may hold key to quantum memory
23.05.2018 | Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...
A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.
The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
23.05.2018 | Life Sciences
23.05.2018 | Life Sciences
23.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy