Toys and drunkards

Published: Friday 31 August 2001

A child's tinkertoy was all that the scientists used to explain why cyclists, stilt-walkers as well as drunkards can gain stability while moving. Just as the toy gains stability from walking, Michael Coleman, researcher at the Cornell University, USA, and his colleagues showed that it is momentum and not friction that is responsible for a body's balance. This is good news for robot engineers and the key to drunkard's secret. Simple models such as the tinkertoy could cast light on our own two-legged gait and on animal movement in general.

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