Saturday, 22 February 2020

The Laws of Physics and Hiking

As will become apparent very quickly, I am no expert in the word of physics, but it has occurred to me that hiking bends the laws of physics and no-one seems to have noticed.  For example, on a circular walk the laws of physics will tell us that if we start and end at the same point then there must be an equal amount of uphill and downhill, but hikers know for a FACT that there is always more up than down in any walk.

In hiking we can also prove that two wrongs do, in fact, make a right.  Very boggy ground - wrong.  Temperatures well below freezing with significant wind chill - wrong.  But combine the two and the freezing weather makes the bog solid so we can walk over it - right.  (OK, that one may not be an actual law of physics, but I'm pretty sure it's a law of something!)

I have dug further into the laws of physics and present, below, my findings on what happens when physics meets hiking.  I'm expecting my doctorate in the post from a prestigious university any day now.  (All laws have been taken from this website, so, if you don't like them, it's him you need to tell, not me.)

1.Archimedes Principle
"The principle was discovered in 3rd century B.C. by the Greek mathematician. Archimedes. It states that when a body is partially or totally immersed in a fluid, it experiences an upward thrust equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by it that i.e. its apparent loss of weight is equal to the weight of liquid displaced."

Well Archimedes was clearly not a hiker.  He also lived in Greece which, I'm guessing, is pretty thin on the ground so far as bogs are concerned.  When my foot is 'partly or totally immersed in (boggy) fluid', there is no upward thrust and I experience no weight loss.  In fact my mass increases as my boots are sucked into the mire and said bog cakes itself around my boots.  If Archimedes had ever tried to walk from High Tove to Castleigg after heavy rain he may have had a rethink.

2. Law of conservation of energy
"It states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed but it can be transformed from one form to another. Since energy cannot be created or destroyed, the amount of energy present in the universe is always remain constant."

It looks so near...

Picture the scene.  You park at Stickle Barn and take the Cumbria Way/ Angle Tarn route up to the bottom of Great End.  You eat and drink well all the way along the route and are feeling good, if a little tired.  You wander along the track to the top of Broad Crag with your sights set firmly on Scafell Pike, still feeling nice and perky.  You reach the end of Broad Crag and see the drop down, and the climb back up, to Scafell Pike summit.  All energy instantly drains from your body.  Energy destroyed. My case rests.


3. Newton’s First law of Motion
"A body continues in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a straight line, except in so far as it is compelled by external impressed forces to change that state. It is also called Law of Inertia."


I'm gong to agree with Newton on this one.  When I'm 3/4 of the way through a long hike and pause for a sit down and a gulp of tea and cake, my body is in a 'state of rest' and I am generally quite happy to remain in this state of rest.  The 'external forces' 'compelling me to move' would be a cold wind, Steve nagging that it's getting late, or an overwhelming desire for a wee.

4. Newton’s Third Law of Motion
"To every action there is equal and opposite reaction."


Kielder Water
Wrong.  At least so far as midges are concerned. Surely this law is stating that if I swish my hands around in front of my face and swear very loudly at a gathering swarm of midges (my 'action'), then they should disperse (their 'reaction'), but we all know that this does not happen, in fact it only encourages them.  And don't get me started on their bites!  It is simply not 'equal' for minute specs of airborne evil (aka the midge) to create a series of golf ball sized lumps on my hands and face that leave me crying for my mummy at 3am.  And then there are the clegs - inch long velociraptors with wings - when they sink their minute diamond tipped fangs into your arm the 'equal' reaction would be to feel a pinprick of pain, not the searing-hot-poker-in-the-arm reality.  Send Newton for a stroll around Kielder Water on a warm, muggy, summer evening, wearing nothing more than tshirt & shorts, and then see what he has to say about "equal and opposite reactions".


5. Newton’s Law of cooling
"The rate at which a body cools or loses its heat to its surroundings is proportional to the excess of mean temperature of the body over that of the surroundings, provided this temperature excess is not too large."

Any laws pertaining to temperature are null and void when hiking - the rate at which my body cools when I pause for a swig of tea on a cold winter hike defies any law of physics.  I can go from baking hot to colder than Katie Hopkins heart in under 5 seconds.  Tea also obeys the same rule when released from its flask and poured into a cup - nice and hot when you pour it, but by the time you've rescrewed the top back on to save the rest of your brew and quickly slipped on a glove because you can no longer feel your fingers, then raised the cup to your lips, it's stone cold.


I'm pretty sure experts in the world of physics will be lining up to tear me to shreds and to all of you I say this:  you are welcome to join me on a hike any time and we'll put your laws to the test - infact, bring Archimedes and Newton along and we'll make a day of it.  😁



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