Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The human machine: (thermo)dynamics of muscles (TToD)

The following is a guest post from Björn Malte Schäfer
(blog: cosmology question of the week, personal webpage)

How do muscles work?

Physics students learn the definition of work and mechanical energy in the first course on classical mechanics. Mechanical work is performed when a test body is moved against a force, and the work performed is equal to the (vectorial) product of the distance covered times the force, if it stays constant, otherwise you would have to evaluate an integral. If the test particle is stationary, no work is performed. But what what happens when you hold a heavy object with your arm? Even if you don't move the arm and don't perform any work from a physical point of view, it proves exhausting and after a while the arm starts aching. You at least have the feeling of having performed work, although this contradicts the physical definition of work.

Read the rest at The Trenches of Discovery.