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Nugget of Knowledge: Insect vs Human strength

All my childhood I wondered how ants could lift things many times their weight and we, humans, couldn’t lift half of what we weighed! Looks like I finally have an answer.

This post was provoked by a riddle asked by a student of mine named Shriram T.G. You can read his riddle here.

The reason for this is that as our size (volume grows) our strength (muscular power) grows only linearly but our mass (and weight) grows in a cubic manner (assuming density to be constant).

Let us assume all creatures to be like cylinders. Experiments show that strength has something to do with ratio of volume to the surface area. In this case it will be linear. But volume itself grows with a power of three. It means that when an living being grows its strength doesn’t grow as much as its weight.

This is the reason why insects, relative to their body masses, are stronger than animals and humans.

Interesting, right? 🙂

The answer to my student’s riddle was the converse of this. As a human shrinks (density remaining constant) its strength relative to its mass increases. This gives it super-human capabilities. However all this is just a theory and since this can’t be experimented, we never know if it really happens or not.

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