OT: Wonder how much ...

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... it cost the taxpayer to fund this dufus' study of something that's been known for thousands of years?
http://news.yahoo.com/s/livescience/20080222/sc_livescience/fastestwayuphillszigzag ;_ylt=Auu3qzIGwkLWD8nWxSQBuGME1vAI
Duh!
I'm starting to think it's about time to jerk the tax exempt status from these supposed "institutions of higher learning".
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I read that earlier and had similar thoughts. As a veteran backpacker I think a simple trip up the Forney Creek Trail to Clingmans Dome would teach that lesson with aboslutly no damage to the University Endowment fund. No additional study necessary.
Frank
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isn't so. I looked up the acknowledgements in the original paper and it turns out to be funded from British sources:
Quote from the paper: We thank Dr. Patricia Kramer (University of Washington) for critical comments, Prof. D. Helbing (Technische Universitt Dresden) and Dr. I. Farkas (Etvs University) for providing background information. We also thank Professors A. Minetti (Manchester) and R. McNeil Alexander (Leeds) for useful correspondence, and Dr. J. Steele (University College, London) for useful discussions and encouragement. This project was initiated when M.Ll held an Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship at the Department of Archaeology, University of Southampton, UK. We also acknowledge the sponsorship of the AHRC Centre for the Evolutionary Analysis of Cultural Behaviour (CEACB) (University College, London/University of Southampton 2001-5).
(I am able to look up things like this because of my affiliation with a NY City medical school, and yes, my salary comes from NIH).
Also, the purpose of the study was to be able to look at patterns of human travel from times without written records, and the authors conclude their paper as follows:
Specific empirical studies of our model might include investigating the decrease in variance of walking slopes with increasing steepness, as well as determining the amplitude of switchbacks and a comparison between existing slopes and predicted walking slopes. The model can also be used to show the effects of different individual physiologies and to consider other species. For example, elephants seem to avoid going uphill. Presumably for them, the critical slopes are very low (Wall et al., 2006). But snow leopard, ibex and mountain goats seem likely to have physiologies which are less sensitive to climbing. For them, perhaps, the critical slopes are high. Finally, we note that our formulation successfully combines research in physiology ([Margaria, 1938] and [Minetti, 1995]) with social modelling ([Helbing and Molnr, 1995] and [Helbing et al., 1997]).
Yes it is esoteric (IMHO) but it seems interesting to me that you can mathematically express this "problem". It may not be that much more esoteric than the math that underlies 3D CAD ...
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Han
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Well, excuse me ... funded by the British taxpayer then, eh? :)
That notwithstanding, you provide nothing in your "documentation" that the study "author", Marcos Llobera of the University of Washington ("co-authored" by the UK guy.), used no US taxpayer's funds whatsoever for the "study"?
... and that would be about as hard to swallow as the need for the "study", in any event.

Sorry, Hans ... as a taxpayer, "esoteric" doesn't begin to describe the ivory tower idiocy of that endeavor, IMHO. ;)
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Maybe, I really don't know what the British AHRC is. Everything else seems to be not from a government entity, at least not directly.

The paper is listed in the PubMed database, and there its funding is listed as "PT - Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't". That is for me close enough to proof that there was no US tax payer money spent for this study.
M Llobera is not listed in NIH's CRISP database, where you can search for "principal investigators" and their grants <http://crisp.cit.nih.gov/crisp/crisp_query.generate_screen .

Well, "need" is a really big word. Is there really a "need" for space exploration? Research into a disease that affects only 150 or so people in the US?

We'll have to somewhat disagree on that! A study like that isn't all that high on my list of priorities either, but IMNSHO <grin> itisn't idiocy. In fact, some of the studies that Senator Proxmire used to give "Golden Fleece" awards to were far from idiocy either, although they may have sounded like it.
For the record, I am involved in medical research, and do not always agree with the directions my boss wants to go in.
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Han
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"Han" wrote

Points well taken ... perhaps my muscle memory from writing that big check to the government last month is still exerting pressure on my perception? ... ouch! :)
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"Swingman" wrote:

Trying to justify the investment in basic research, especially when a known objective is not apparent, can be a little difficult.
Early in my career, I interviewed for a position as a research engineer.
When asked by the interviewer, why I should be considered for the job, my response was simple.
"I offer you my ignorance of your industry. I bring no perceived notions, just a clean slate and the desire to travel down the uncharted road to see where it will lead."
Got the job and a very nice increase in salary that went with it.
During my tenure, did I find some new and startling discovery?
Not really, but was able to define several existing ideas as being shall we say not really what they appeared to be.
Basic research is a lot like a trip to a gambling casino, except you probably have better odds at the casino; however, when you hit, the ROI can be tremendous.
Lew
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I don't know if it got one of his awards or not but the Feds once funded a study of the efficacy of a breast enlargement device.
Sounds ridiculous, right?
The results of the study were used to prosecute a mail fraud case against the company selling the device.
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It wasn't known; it was *believed* There is a HUGE difference between the two. Sometimes beliefs are validated by methodical scrutiny, sometimes they are not. Either way, I consider all efforts to further the body of knowledge worthy endeavors. Certainly we'll have differences when it comes to public policy, but I favor policies that foster a climate of intellectual pursuit. If that means tax breaks for these institutes you loathe, well, we can each lobby accordingly. There are a lot of woodworking beliefs. I'd love to see how they stand up to testing....
Cheers, Jeff
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"Jeff" wrote

LOL ... what a profound revelation!

Probably won't hurt to take the rest of the day off and rest from the exertion. A little reflective gazing at any hill that humans have been climbing for the last few thousand years will do wonders for pomposity.
Jeeesus!
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Ah, yes, the ol' zigzag path. Even the fool cows in Appalachia know that straight down is not fast. The mouhntains--that serve as pastures west of here, and a few places around here--are ringed with paths, but have NO paths going straight downhill. It do seem that they did the study long before the hotshot scientists.
But, hey, maybe it's the same northern U.S. group that spent a quarter million bucks a few years ago...studying the mating habits of BRAZILIAN tree frogs. One wonders: WTF is wrong with U.S. tree frogs? Ain't they getting any?
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Bingo!
Do you suppose the results may be useful to the Park service when laying out trails, or to infantry commanders who need to get from point A to point B as fast as possible.
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"Fred the Red Shirt" wrote

Already accomplished and in practice, since the first "park trail" went up a hill. See if you find one that doesn't.

Seems Hannibal already figured that out in the Alps ... a couple of thousand years ago, and with elephants no less. :)
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As noted above:
It wasn't known; it was *believed* There is a HUGE difference between the two. Sometimes beliefs are validated by methodical scrutiny, sometimes they are not.

I'm doubtful that much detail of his route is believed, let alone known.
For example Carthaginians domesticated African Elephants, which are not nearly as docile as Indian Elephants. That seems to be a lost art today,
The story goes that a Roman visitor to Carthage was watching elephants used as beasts of burden and asked his guide, "How do you get those giant beasts to obey you?". His guide replied "We castrate them to make them docile." "How do you do that?", asked the visitor." "We wait until they are drinking and then we come up behind them with two big flat stones and whack them together." was the reply. "Great Jupiter!" the Roman exclaimed, "that must hurt!" "Nah", replied his host. "We keep our thumbs on the outside."
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"Fred the Red Shirt" wrote:

That is also the process that is used by "Abe's Rent a Camel" to convert a 2 day camel into a 4 day camel.
Lew
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On Sun, 24 Feb 2008 11:34:54 -0800 (PST), Fred the Red Shirt

Not a totally lost art. If you want to see "domesticated" African elephants, go to Livingstone Zambia and the Victoria falls, You can go on elephant rides and elephant "safaris" on african elephants. Eldest daughter did it over the Christmas break from her job in Kigali Rwanda.

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On Feb 25, 12:22 am, clare at snyder.on.ca wrote:

Did the guides have bandages on their thumbs?
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FF


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wrote:

Dunno about the Park Service, but I do know that 50 years ago, Marine Corps infantry training included that information.
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They should have handed that study off to The MythBusters. They get results.
Like that conundrum of what makes you wetter, walking or running in the rain.
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It's not a conclusion that the URL describes. The big news is that they developed a simple mathematical model. That's very different.
Think of the computer gaming world, where the programmers write software where creatures act realistically. Some of the earlier games had problems with the simple task of finding a path from one spot to another. I've seen games where creatures and people get stuck in a cul-de-sac while trying to go to a desired location.
With the more realistic 3D games, creatures also need to find ways up a steep hill. If the model tried to include the physics of traction, and they got stuck by going the shortest, but steepest path, it would seem dumb to us. But until the software has the right algorithm, that's a potential problem.
But no longer.
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