Nautilus

New Exoskeletons Will Harness the Subtle Anatomy of Human Balance

The bones and bodies of the Kenyan women had adjusted to perfectly support the head weight in the most energy efficient manner, aligning in an ideal formation to keep the weight off the muscles.Photograph by Kim Steele / Getty

In the 1980s, a bioengineer named Norm Heglund was doing field work in Kenya, hoping to uncover the secrets of locomotion. It was a good gig. Heglund and his team spent their days shooting wild animals with tranquilizer darts in Kenya’s national parks then dragging them back to a research station, run by the East Africa Veterinary Research Organization, in nearby Muguga for testing.

Every day, the wives of local colleagues stopped by the lab to chit chat. They carried impossibly huge bundles of food, clothing, or other supplies perfectly balanced on top of their heads. During one lunch break, a few weeks into his stay, he realized something.

“These weren’t little loads,” Heglund told me when I spoke to

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from Nautilus

Nautilus4 min readPsychology
The Hidden Link Between Morality and Language
Tragedy can strike us any time, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make the best of it. When Frank’s dog was struck and killed by a car in front of his house, he grew curious what Fido might taste like. So he cooked him up and ate him for dinner. It was
Nautilus5 min readScience
7 Surprises That Climate Change Will Throw Us
Rising sea levels, lower air quality, and longer and more frequent droughts often top the list of climate change consequences that will change our biosphere and stoke human conflict. Consider Central Asia. The “tangled knot of borders, ethnicities, w
Nautilus5 min read
Actually, There Is a Time Like the Present: Think there’s no time like the present? Modern physics begs to differ.
We’ve all heard it before: There’s no time like the present. Broadly speaking, of course, it means to “seize the opportunity right now,” or maybe in my case, to avoid procrastinating. From a psychological perspective, this makes a lot of sense. As hu