How humans evolved to be exceptional long-distance runners but then turned into wimps

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


That's the theme painted by an article here in the New York Times from yesterday and another one here from about two weeks ago. The one from the New York Times discusses one of the more interesting features of the human race in which humans actually stand out from other land-based animals - their ability to go long distances without overheating as other animals do. When watching documentaries on TV it's easy to feel like humans are pitiful in comparison to some of the feats displayed by other animals, but the ability to go such distances without overheating is actually something that other animals don't have. It's also the reason why Romans would set up waystations along roads where messengers could jump off their tired horse and onto a fresh one in order to deliver a message as fast as possible, because over long distances a human is actually more efficient than a horse. The article from two weeks ago also makes the argument that tens of thousands of years ago humans were also just as impressive in terms of speed, with even average humans at the time being able to run as fast as our Olympic sprinters now.

On a related note, Iron Maiden has a song from 1986 about running - The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner.



And on a related note to that, the hype back in the 1980s and early 1990s over Iron Maiden's supposed "Satanic" lyrics was always quite funny, as the majority of their songs are mostly intellectual pieces about history and literature. Alexander the Great, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, To Tame a Land (that one's about Dune), Quest for Fire (prehistoric humans again), and on and on. Hell, even the album The Number of the Beast has a song about trying to get a prostitute to quit working the streets and start living a normal life (22 Acacia Avenue, with lyrics such as Charlotte can't you get out from all this madness - Can't you see it only brings you sadness - When you entertain your men don't know the risk of getting disease).

In fact, often an Iron Maiden song is the best introduction to a topic.

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