The other day as I was walking in the street returning from work I noticed someone swinging by me on one of those razor scooters. She was moving at a pace that would equate to running for me yet at the same time barely expending any energy flicking with the foot on one side every few meters or so. I thought to myself now that’s efficient, I tried to decompose what made that man made invention that is the wheel so efficient and figured that the key processes involved were that friction is transferred to the center of the wheel (and decoupled) onto a device where friction is as low as possible (the ball bearing at the center of the wheel). The most effective mechanism in reducing the friction was not the ball bearing I said to myself but the length of the radius along which the forces are decoupled.
That maybe one of few things, I thought, nature has not invented already, until I read this article on slashdot today, which made me change my mind:
All along, I was actually standing on this nature made wheel… What that made me realize is that our legs can actually be compared to the rays of a wheel and the articulation of our legs to our hips and knees can actually be assimilated to the low friction surface on a wheel ball bearing.
Nature has made a wheel just not one that’s round. Now as for efficiency I’m not certain it’s as efficient as the wheels on a razor scooter, however how much of the landscapes we (animals that we are) roamed for the past millions of years… probably none. The round wheel maybe perfectly adapted to smooth surfaces but maybe the best answer to non-smooth ones is a pair of legs…