Hosted by Sandra Tsing Loh, The Loh Down on Science is a fun way to get your daily dose of science plus a dash of humor in less than two minutes.
Hosted by Sandra Tsing Loh
Airs Weekdays 2:31, 3:31 and 5:49 a.m.

Brittle Bones

When it comes to superiority over animals, humans literally don’t have a leg to stand on.
This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Most animals, from ladybugs to lobsters, lack spines and have shell-like skeletons. So their leg bones are like straws—relatively thin-walled tubes of wide diameter. Muscle, et cetera, is packed inside.

Ours? Like the stick in a corndog, embedded in the meat. But which structure is more sturdy?

Meet David Taylor from Trinity College Dublin. He built a model that predicts how well bones hold up to various stresses, like bending. Then he assessed the different leggy structures of crabs, grasshoppers, and humans.

The crab leg? Ideal for a lifetime of scurrying. The locust limb? Optimal for one champion jump after another. Humans? Weak. Our gams could be redesigned to be twice as strong, and lighter.

Animals win that design challenge. But. Human bones also store minerals like calcium, and produce immune and blood cells. These things require space.

So, fine, sticks and stones may break our bones, but … you spineless beasts lack our linguistic and verbal sophistication!

It’s somethin’. 

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena, California. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.