Friday, December 26, 2008

You Can Finally Rest Easy

Back in 1936, unfettered by the demands on his time that would have been posed by cable television, internet pornography, and the XBox, Sir James Gray had nothing better to think about than dolphins. He wondered how they were able to swim at speeds upwards of 20 mph (no, I refuse to convert that into kilometers, you Europeans are on your own), given their muscle mass.

It sounds cute, but honestly, I'm not sure why anyone cared. They already had that staple of faux-science small talk, the old saw about how a bumblebee is aerodynamically impossible, and should not be able to fly, but I guess that everyone's looking for a new gem of useless trivia that they can trot out when they need something to talk about but want to sound smart.

So the dolphins, right. Rensselaer Polytechnic actually started studying the whole dolphin business. I'm not sure why they needed to; it has already been proven that dolphins can swim fast, why do we need to study whether or not it should be possible for them to swim fast? I guess that's why I'm not a scientist.

Now, more than 70 years later, "Gray's Paradox" has been solved. "The short answer," said the professor who led the project, "is that dolphins are simply much stronger than Gray or many other people ever imagined.”

Well, I never. What are the odds of that?

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1 comment: said...

I thought dolphins can swim faster than, say, Michael Phelps, because they are fish.

The header image is adapted from a photo taken by Bill McChesney and used under a creative commons license.
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