Friday, November 12, 2010

High Heels, Lady Gaga, and Physics

There's a fairly straightforward explanation for how Lady Gaga manages to dance in those weird lobster-claw 10-inch high heels: h = Q x(12+3s /8).

Here's where the Lemming found that:

"The Science of High Heels: How Physics Keeps Women From Falling Down"
Blake Snow, Science, FOXNews (November 11, 2010)

"How on Earth do women walk in high heels? Seriously now . . . shouldn't they tip over?

"The answer is: Science.

"Lady Gaga's massive 10-inch tapered heels may be purely for show, rarely making an appearance outside of the artist's music videos. But three-inch or higher heels are hard for many people to understand -- even scientists.

" 'Many of my physicist colleagues have no trouble understanding quantum mechanics but can't figure out how women can wear high heels,' admitted Dr. Laura Grant, a physicist from Liverpool University...."

That equation? It comes after a description of how high heeled shoes are made.

"...Turns out, there's a formula for that. In 2004, researchers at the University of Surrey devised an equation that uses shoe size, the Pythagorean theorem, and several sociological variables to calculate how high heels can safely go: h = Q x(12+3s /8)

"Variables in the equation include aesthetic appeal of the shoe, experience in wearing high heels, how many months the shoe has been in style, and even the amount of alcohol consumed.


Okay: so there's an equation that describes, if somewhat subjectively, how people can stand, walk - and even dance - in heels. That still doesn't explain why anybody with a quorum of their marbles would wear the things.

Particularly considering the tradeoffs involved:

"...But wearing high heels requires more than balance. They demand sacrifice: Sacrifice in comfort. Sacrifice in practicality. Sacrifice in stability. Sacrifice in mobility. And in some cases, sacrifice in health, including knee, hip, feet, and back injury, as documented by WebMD.

"In other words, beauty is pain. Women don't wear heels because they are comfortable; they endure the pain because the tradeoff is looking really hot.

"Why all the health risks? Science can explain that too. Specifically, Newton's second law of motion, which states for every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction...."

The Lemming has lived in the American culture for the last half-century or so - I've learned that women are supposed to look better in high heels. It seems to have something to do with contraction of the calf muscle producing an illusion of greater length of the lower part of the leg.

Back in the late sixties and seventies, the Lemming thought women generally looked better in the 'before' pictures of those diet ads - and that's another topic.

Here's an insight that helps explain (part of) the situation:

"...'They have a way of making me feel better about myself,'" Dani Gooch, a high-heeled mother of two told 'In that sense, I feel more confident in them than I do in other shoes.'

"Exactly, said shoe designer Terry DeHavilland.

" 'People say they're bad for the feet, but they're good for the mind. What's more important?' "

That's - pardon the phrase - a no-brainer. For the Lemming, anyway. The mind's got priority over the feet. And is, in the Lemming's view, distinct from the brain. Yet another topic. "Mind" being distinct from "brain," that is. Not "brain" from "feet." Or, for that matter, feats. Which isn't the plural of foot: that's feet. Which is also a unit of measure.

On the other hand, "mens sana in corpore sano." (Satire X, Juvenal) The old 'healthy body in a healthy mind' thing. Or, rather, the other way around. Which is a pretty good place to start. And that's one more topic.

As to why some folks - quite a few, judging from sales figures - seem convinced that high heels don't make a woman look accident-prone, at risk for health problems, and wobbly to boot? That's a whole different topic - one more in the bailiwick of psychology or sociology than physics.


Brigid said...

Missed a period: "Yet another topic"

Somehow, that sounds wrong in a post about women.

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...


Thanks. Found it, fixed it. Changed it, anyway.

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