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Speed derived from footprint t8

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750877.  Sun Oct 10, 2010 3:03 pm Reply with quote

In episode 4, Humans, it is stated that Usain Bolt is not the fastest human runner of all time. On the contrary, it is supposed to have been a certain undefined figure from the past - based on the footprints of 'person T8' at the Willandra Lakes, Southeast Australia. This individual supposedly ran 23 miles/h [= 37 km/h] in the dirt and accelerating.

-intermediate- Now, the QI Elves are generally very thorough in their research so I more or less suppose they are right and I am wrong; but one can't be sure without asking. -so much for the intermediate-

According to the article in this link : -- written by Webb [Bond University], Cupper [University of Melbourne] and Robins [University of New England], the derived speeds are different.

A quick table is on page 13 of the document. Page 7 states, I quote;

The most impressive track in terms of speed is T8. (...) Pace length increases from 1.8 to 1.9 m over 11 m, indicating acceleration, and speed is estimated at ~ 20 km hr -1.

This is obviously completely different from the 23mph or 37 km/h mentioned in the episode. Of course, calculations might differ, but not almost a factor 2.

Perhaps the Elves, or anyone else found newer research though, so could anyone -with more knowledge on the matter- shed some light?

750887.  Sun Oct 10, 2010 3:34 pm Reply with quote

The Independent wrote:
An analysis of the footsteps of one of the men, dubbed T8, shows he reached speeds of 37 kph on a soft, muddy lake edge. Bolt, by comparison, reached a top speed of 42 kph during his then world 100 meters record of 9.69 seconds at last year's Beijing Olympics.

In an interview in the English university town of Cambridge where he was temporarily resident, McAllister said that, with modern training, spiked shoes and rubberized tracks, aboriginal hunters might have reached speeds of 45 kph.

I'm still confused...

750896.  Sun Oct 10, 2010 3:53 pm Reply with quote

I had seen that - numerous newspapers have written articles about it because mister Peter McAllister wrote a book arguing how phenomenally terrible the modern human is at practically all physical activity in comparison to our ancestors [I might exaggerate here a bit].

Moreover, he held a nice little speech which you can see here . The part of interest is #7, clicking on it actually skips to the appropriate section.

He literally refers Webb with some general estimates [height, stride-length, year of publication etc]. However, then he goes on to completely mis-quote Webbs calculation on the speed - he indeed says Webb calculated 37 km/h -- which is at odds with the article mentioned in my first post.

But regardless of what this author mentions - I do suppose the Elves looked at the original source, i.e. Webbs article (?)

751038.  Mon Oct 11, 2010 6:37 am Reply with quote

I'm still backing the mysterious T8 for overall running ability. Even if he never hit Bolt's top speed, he was doubtless able to keep up a good pace for a lot longer than Bolt could manage.

751044.  Mon Oct 11, 2010 7:13 am Reply with quote

Oh undoubtedly; there is a big difference between top-speed and average speed. I played for a moment with the idea to include how you can not ask for the fastest human without defining which of those two you want. Over the course of a marathon, Bolt is fairly slow probably.

However, in that case you come into a grey area. In the end you might have to conclude that the question was incomplete because it failed to mention how we all travel at a terribly fast pace around the sun, and the sun in turn around the center of the Milky Way Galaxy -- and that you can't point to a 'fastest' without a reference point. And then you would simply be silly - for a quiz-question, that is.

Therefore, I thought the easiest solution was simply that we could all conclude they meant 'fastest = highest speed' and NOT 'highest velocity' -- recall how speed is the magnitude of velocity. And thus the highest observed speed when the time-interval approaches 0.

751239.  Mon Oct 11, 2010 6:28 pm Reply with quote

Hi Rubinsky,

You'll notice at the end of the section on T8 that Stephen says: "I'm not saying that Usain Bolt is not the fastest...."

I wasn't at the edit, but wonder if that was the producer leaving a little caveat to cover that this was a slightly dubious fact. My source is not with me at the moment, but I felt it was strong at the time, so I stand by it at the moment. I'll try to respond to your specific points later in the week.

751248.  Mon Oct 11, 2010 7:59 pm Reply with quote

Hi Rubinsky have you been formally welcomed to the forum?

Judging by some of the fauna around in Australia at the time running fast was no. 1 priority.

751328.  Tue Oct 12, 2010 5:34 am Reply with quote

I have not Zebra. Browsed through the forums every now and then in the past - and only was there a necessity to make an account :)

Eggshaped -- at the time I presumed the caveat was kept because the speeds were still slightly lower than those of Bolt; however that -due to underground, acceleration and possibly other, even faster, tribe members- it would be save to suggest Bolt would not be the fastest. Thus the little warning due to the other factors, instead of due to the base-speed.

Anyway, please do take all the time you need - no reason to rush these matters.

755152.  Tue Oct 26, 2010 10:19 am Reply with quote


Any news yet? :)

Untutored Eye
755177.  Tue Oct 26, 2010 11:38 am Reply with quote

I'M the fastest.

When it's my shout, I can leave a pub in 0.8 seconds flat.

758013.  Fri Nov 05, 2010 4:08 pm Reply with quote

There is in fact a subsequent paper written by Webb in which he recalculates the speeds and makes corrections to the original research. In that paper he gives a revised speed of 37kph for T8.

The more recent paper was tricky to find but I can have a look for a link if anyone wants the evidence.

758065.  Fri Nov 05, 2010 9:18 pm Reply with quote

How did he recalculate it fadrus? Welcome to the forums by the way :-)

758069.  Fri Nov 05, 2010 9:43 pm Reply with quote

Thank you Jenny.

From memory I think he simply took what he considered to be better advice about the running speed that would relate to the measured stride lengths. There was no issue of the original measurements being faulty in any way.

I'll see if I can dig out the article tomorrow and post a link. Bedtime now, it's nearly 3 o'clock here :)

758071.  Fri Nov 05, 2010 9:56 pm Reply with quote

Actually curiosity got the better of me....

Looks like I might have been wrong about the reason for the recalculaton and in fact it was just improved data but I'll leave it to you to read the paper more carefully than I'm able to at the moment.

There's an interesting bit too about a one legged man!

758288.  Sat Nov 06, 2010 7:43 pm Reply with quote

Thank you - some people will undoubtedly be interested in that.


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