Navigation Links
In the race to the top, zigzagging is more efficient than a straight line

A straight line may be the shortest distance between two points, but it isnt necessarily the fastest or easiest path to follow.

Thats particularly true when terrain is not level, and now American and British researchers have developed a mathematical model showing that a zigzag course provides the most efficient way for humans to go up or down steep slopes.

I think zigzagging is something people do intuitively, said Marcos Llobera, a University of Washington assistant professor of anthropology who is a landscape archaeologist. People recognize that zigzagging, or switchbacks, help but they dont realize why they came about.

Llobera, who is interested in reconstructing patterns of movement within past landscapes, said the model and a study that describes it stem from earlier research that looked at the emergence of trail systems. That research focused on flat terrain.

You would expect a similar process on any landscape, but when you have changes in elevation it makes things more complicated, he said. There is a point, or critical slope, where it becomes metabolically too costly to go straight ahead, so people move at an angle, cutting into the slope. Eventually they need to go back toward the direction they were originally headed and this creates zigzags. The steeper the slope, the more important it is that you tackle it at the right angle.

Trails evolve, among other reasons, because of physical differences in people and the differences in the biomechanics and energy cost of ascending and descending a slope.

You get a different pattern if people are going up or down and this may lead to the emergence of shortcuts. Walking downhill generally takes less energy except for braking. We would expect to see different paths going up and down, but what we end up with is a compromise and shortcuts arent as apparent.

Llobera said many other physical factors can influence the creation and development of a trail or path, and that the new model is a simplified one and a place to start. Eventually he hopes to build a simulation engine that would allow archaeologists to plug in a terrain and explore different patterns of movement through it. He is particularly interested in using it with landscapes that have resulted from the accumulations of various societies and cultures.


Contact: Joel Schwarz
University of Washington

Related biology news :

1. Colorado Engineering Firms Win NASA Grant to Develop Innovative Insulation for Next Generation Spacecraft - Super-Insulation May Allow Future Energy Efficient Appliances
2. Satellites help ensure efficient use of pesticides
3. 454 Sequencing: Science paper describes a novel, highly efficient method of sequencing ancient DNA
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
In the race to the top, zigzagging is more efficient than a straight line
(Date:5/12/2016)... -- , a brand of Troubadour Research ... the Q1 wave of its quarterly wearables survey. A ... to a program where they would receive discounts for ... "We were surprised to see that so ... , CEO of Troubadour Research, "primarily because there are ...
(Date:5/3/2016)... , May 3, 2016  Neurotechnology, a ... the MegaMatcher Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) ... large-scale multi-biometric projects. MegaMatcher ABIS can process multiple ... using any combination of fingerprint, face or iris ... MegaMatcher SDK and MegaMatcher Accelerator , ...
(Date:4/28/2016)... First quarter 2016:   , Revenues amounted ... quarter of 2015 The gross margin was 49% (27) ... the operating margin was 40% (-13) Earnings per share ... operations was SEK 249.9 M (21.2) , Outlook   ... M. The operating margin for 2016 is estimated to ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016 Apellis ... Phase 1 clinical trials of its complement C3 ... single and multiple ascending dose studies designed to ... (PD) of subcutaneous injection in healthy adult volunteers. ... (SC) either as a single dose (ranging from ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 23, 2016 Andrew ... Published recently in ... journal from touchONCOLOGY, Andrew D Zelenetz , ... cancer care is placing an increasing burden on ... biologic therapies. With the patents on many biologics ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... San Francisco, CA (PRWEB) , ... June 23, ... ... capture (EDC) software, is exhibiting at the Pennsylvania Convention Center and will showcase ... DIA Annual conference. ClinCapture will also be presenting a scientific poster on Disrupting ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... Connecticut (PRWEB) , ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... introduce a new line of intelligent tools designed, tuned and optimized exclusively for ... September 12–17 in Chicago. The result of a collaboration among several companies with ...
Breaking Biology Technology: