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Science Explains Tortoise vs. Hare

September 4, 2018

The metaphor of the Tortoise and the Hare can be applied to the speed of life of animals of all sizes, according to new research.

Transcript

Cheetahs are the world's fastest land animal. But they spend most of their time at rest. (Malene Thyssen/CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikipedia)

Cheetahs are the world’s fastest land animal. But they spend most of their time at rest. (Malene Thyssen/CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikipedia)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Speedy animals. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Animals tend to get faster as they increase in size. There are notable exceptions, like the world’s speediest land animal, the cheetah, which seems far swifter than the lumbering elephant. But because they’re constantly on the go, elephants actually cover more ground.

ADRIAN BEJAN (Duke University):

And if you average the movement over the entire lifetime, you discover that the famous sprinters, cheetahs and company, are in fact where they should be given their small body size.

HIRSHON:

Duke University physicist Adrian Bejan says that aircraft follow the same pattern as animals. Fighter jets may leave commercial airliners in the dust, but they sit idle most of the time, while the larger planes regularly ferry cargo and passengers. His team writes in Scientific Reports that understanding the relationship between size and speed could influence future aircraft design. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard