ZERO DROP "All the Shoes That Fit"


Evolution: A Return to the Past?


Pepper Spraying and Human Evolution


New Documentary About a Family-Raised Chimp

It was the early 70s when experimentation in radical-living social arrangements was still the rage, and not just with hippies taking up farming on communes. In New York City, a young independently wealthy woman brought into her expanding Brady Bunch family a two-week-old, cuddly cute chimp named Nim Chimpsky (after famed linguist Noam Chomsky who believed that language is hard-wired into the human brain at birth). The purpose of this "research project" was to see how well a chimp could be trained to communicate with humans; after all, both species share 99 percent of the same DNA. Nim was treated like a regular member of the family; he was actually breast-fed by mom for several months, taught sign language, and romped around the Upper West side brownstone like any other unruly, diaper-clad toddler. But as he matured into an "adolescent," Nim's true chimpness eventually came out; he became more aggressive, territorial, jealous, a male primate naturally seeking his own dominance within his tribe. And considering that Nim had sharp fangs and was several times stronger than his human family members, it was only a matter of time before the research experiment was forced to shift venues; Nim was shipped off to the Oklahoma research facility where he had been born. And here this real-life story takes a sad, dark turn: Nim was later transferred a pharmaceutical animal testing laboratory before an animal rights organization bought Nim and sent him to live his remaining years on a wildlife ranch in Texas. The new documentary about the life of Nim is called "Project NIm," and contains plenty of archival home-movie footage. The film reviewer at wrote, "Nim goes from a coddled baby in a mansion to a lonely ape in a cage...This chimp's downward social mobility is something out of an Edith Wharton novel."


“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”  

Leave it to Hollywood to continue blurring the lines between truth and fiction. The "Planet of the Apes" movie franchise will see a new addition this August with "Rise of the Planet of the Apes."  So press the reset button on evolution, but one would think that bipedal humans would be able to outrun and escape their knuckle-walking primate ancestors. To this day, scientists, however, are still unsure when precisely the origins of bipedalism first took place. Some believe that our ancestors climbed down from the trees for a sustained period of time around seven million years ago, and thus began the evolutionary journey from knuckle-walking to walking upright. And of course, running was soon to follow with more anatomical changes occurring in the feet, legs, hips, and eventually larger brains. Though this higher intelligence is not always put to good use in Hollywood which is fixated on the 13-18 male demographic audience of moviegoers.


Barefoot In Bedrock: Gait Analysis of Barney Rubble

So how did early man run? If he was barefoot we have a fairly good idea. But studying the fossil record can only take evolutionary scientists and paleontologists so far. That’s where Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble can be of some assistance here. Zero Drop asked the “Gait Guys," Dr. Ivo Waerlop and Dr. Shawn Allen, who have an informative and lively take on the interrelated topics of movement, human biomechanics, and gait, to spend some time in Bedrock where going barefoot is as natural as having a pet dinosaur. In his review of Barney’s gait in the first video clip, Dr. Waerlop, who has an established chiropractic, neurology and sports medicine-based practice in Dillon, Colorado, observed the following: “Not the best barefoot technique we have witnessed. Though Barney has a some forward lean, he still heel strikes with an extended knee in front of his body (ouch!) and has little to no ankle rocker with premature heel rise. This results in a 'bouncing' gait with most likely sore calves! I hope Betty was a massage therapist.”

In the second video clip, Dr. Waerlop noticed a slight improvement in the Barney shuffle: "His barefoot technique has only improved marginally. He initiates with a much better forward lean. His ankle rocker is improved, but not enough for him to gain traction. His arm swing is better, but he has a tendency to hunch his shoulders. His leap into the car is a tribute to his gastroc soleus group.”

Stay tuned for more animated gait analysis of other cartoon characters and Hollywood actors by the Gait Guys. Waerlop’s partner,  Dr. Shawn Allen, is  a board-certified Chiropractic Orthopedist in Westmont, Illinois,who works with a broad base of patients including Olympic, professional, para-professional, collegiate and All-American sprinters and distance runners, gymnasts, dancers, football, baseball and triathletes.


Evolution of Man: The Sequel


Learning to Artificially Walk Via eLegs

Watching this video made Zero Drop's eyes well up with tears and reflect upon the amazing aspect of human intelligence that went into this bionic untethered exoskeleton that can help the wheelchair-bound walk again. Imagine being around several million years ago, and watching for the very first time our arboreal ancestors stand up and walk on their hind legs. And from there, the next evolutionary step was running. Developed by Berkeley Bionics, eLegs employ artificial intelligence to process the wearer's arm gestures through a set of crutches, and thus producing a human gait. Obviously, it's a slow, careful, and somewhat awkward gait--but it's distinctively human. Its design was inspired by military exoskeletons that soldiers strap on to lift heavy packs. For the next several years, eLegs, which Time named one of the best 50 inventions of 2010, will initially be available only at rehabilitation centers, mainly in Silicon Valley, for use with a trained physical therapist. The woman in the video is an amazing story in itself. Her name is Amanda Boxtel, formerly of Australia, who lives in Aspen. She suffered a freak skiing accident that left her paralyzed at the age of 24. She later became a ski instructor teaching skiing sitting down, motivational speaker, author of “Pivotal Moments – Life Lessons is Overcoming,” and co-founder of the non-profit Challenge Aspen.  On her website, she writes, "I challenged myself with all the things I could do - a rock climber, paraglider, biker, and diver. I had beaten the odds, but on the inside I still ached to walk. My healing came with my change in attitude – I now get rock star parking and bikini waxes no longer hurt!"


The Human Race’s Tipping-the-Scale Point: Global Obesity Rates are Doubling

As we cast our collective gaze back to the past for a better and healthier understanding of diet and exercise, from weaning ourselves off processed food, sugar, and harmful carbs, to more sensible (minimalist) running footwear, a look ahead to the future bodes ill for the human species if viewed through the prism of climbing obesity rates. Global obesity has doubled over the past two decades. Ballooning obesity is no longer a made-in-America occurrence. According to three new studies published in the British medical journal, The Lancet, one in 10 of the world's adults is now considered obese. Not just overweight, but obese! Using the Body Mass Index scale (a much more accurate measurement is waist size, which Japan does), the U.S. still claimed top honors of having the highest BMI rate, followed by New Zealand. According to the Washington Examiner, "the study found the highest BMI - between 34 and 35- was found in Pacific Islanders. Women in Russia and Moldova are also at the upper end of the scale with BMI, while men in Czech Republic and Ireland are between the heftiest ones. Swiss women were found the slimmest, followed by French and Italian women. Italy was the only country in Europe where women's average BMI declined." Based on study data, more than half a billion men and women are clinically obese. So if we extrapolate another two decades to the year 2031, that number will be one billion, or greater, as more non-Western countries adopt the starchy Western diet. Even more troubling is the effect that obesity will have on the health care system. Obesity is a chronic metabolic disease in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have a detrimental effect on human life expectancy, leading to multiple health problems such as hypertension, heart disease, stroke, gout, kidney disease, and even cancer. For more on the health issues surrounding obesity-- and this includes lower fertility rates for both sexes-- Dr. Phil Maffetone has written a provocative essay on the "overfat epidemic and the decline of the human race."


Persistence Hunting on the Sea Floor

Man first emerged from the depths of sea as a fish with fins-turned-shortened limbs that over hundreds of millions of year evolved into legs. From these humble ancestral origins emerged bipedalism, and in the blink of a cosmic eye, humans have gone from Stone Age hunters and gatherers to rulers of the planet. So it's with great interest that Zero Drop came across this new BBC video of a deep-water hunter of fish; it was filmed underwater in Bajau (southern Philippines) for the Human Planet series. In this segment, a local fisherman by the name of Sulbin freedives 20 meters to the sea floor to catch a fish. In fact, he's actually seen striding across the sea bottom, "as if he's hunting on land," in the words of the narrator. His underwater chase made us think of the Attenborough video of the Bushman tracking and hunting down an antelope over eight hours. In that case, the land-based hunter ran his prey to death. With our fish-hunter, he doesn't have that luxury; he can only hold his breath for several minutes at that lung-crushing depth.


Paleo Diet: So Easy a Caveman Could Do It

Barefoot running and minimalist footwear have recently rekindled interest in how early man ate. It's as if the fitness and diet clock have been turned back to a healthier, simpler age. The Paleo diet is the diet plan du jour these days for many endurance athletes and runners, and is one that focuses primarily on consuming daily portions of meat, seafood, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds. Refined and processed carbs, sugar, dairy, and wheat all get a big "no." But while the Paleo diet harkens back to Stone Age stomach concerns, it has been also called in the past by other names such as the Caveman Diet, Hunter-Gatherer Diet, Evolutionary Fitness, and Primal Diet. (Don't know of anyone calling it the Flintstones Diet, though their sugar-sweetened vitamins are a kids' favorites.)

Last week, Runner's World's editor-at-large Amby Burfoot interviewed Loren Cordain, Ph.D, who is the author of several popular books on the Paleo Diet. The full interview is here, and makes for fascinating reading.  Zero Drop recommends you check it out.  A taste here: "Paleo stands for Paleolithic which means the old stone age, or the period from about 2.5 million years ago with the first appearance of stone tools in the fossil record until about 10,000 years ago with the beginning of the Agricultural Revolution.  During this period all humans existed as hunter gatherers. The Paleo Diet is a contemporary way of eating in which we attempt to emulate the characteristics of hunter gatherer diets by eating ancestral food groups...The Paleo diet has now been scientifically tested. In the past few years four controlled human trials of the diet have shown that it is highly therapeutic in improving blood chemistry, blood pressure, markers of inflammation and insulin metabolism. It is more effective than the Mediterranean diet in promoting weight loss and is more satiating as well. In addition to promoting weight loss and improving cardiovascular health, the Paleo Diet may be an effective treatment for many autoimmune diseases, according to a number of scientific papers. The molecular basis for the Paleo Diet's therapeutic effects are now being identified, whereas 25 years ago, they were not as well characterized."

Tagged as: 1 Comment

The World’s Oldest Shoes: Shredded Sagebrush Bark Sandals

Well-preserved footwear from what experts say is approximately 10,000 years ago.

Here's one-half of the oldest pair of shoes known to exist. In 1938, Luther Sheeleigh Cressman, an Oregon-based anthropologist who was once briefly married to Margaret Mead, unearthed a pair of perfectly preserved shredded sagebrush bark sandals at Fort Rock in Oregon that were later radiocarbon-dated from 10,500 to 9,300 years old, making them the oldest footwear ever discovered.  Fort Rock is a volcanic landmark called a tuff ring, located on an Ice age lake bed in south-central Oregon. Cressman ended up finding dozens of sandals buried beneath a layer of volcanic ash caused by the eruption of the Mt. Mazama volcano 7,500 years ago. It truly was an amazing footwear fossil trove. Now the following fact has nothing to do with Cressman's discovery, but it's worth bringing up: University of Oregon legendary track coach and co-founder of Nike, Bill Bowerman, who also created the waffle trainer, died in his sleep at his home in Fossil, Oregon at the age of 88 on Christmas Eve, 1999.


New Gallup Poll: 40% of Americans Believe that God Created Mankind 10,000 Years Ago

Uh oh. Does this recent poll implicate the other 60%-- and that probably means 100% of those who read this blog-- to ever-lasting hell and damnation for not adopting a literal translation of the Book of Genesis?  In other words, close to 120 million American don't believe in natural selection, evolution, and one can safely bet, science. Blind, unquestioning faith is what matters to them -- and at the expense of the fossil record, DNA sampling of species, and so on. If Darwin is on the ropes here in America, creationists have been given a great, earthly gift in the form of the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky. This $30 million tribute to all things faith-y opened for business to 2007; it's now a must-see stopover for a certain species of Bible-loving vacationer known to waddle, eat pork rinds, wear polyester, and is addicted to reality television. Here's what the museum's website says:"The state-of-the-art 70,000 square foot museum brings the pages of the Bible to life, casting its characters and animals in dynamic form and placing them in familiar settings. Adam and Eve live in the Garden of Eden. Children play and dinosaurs roam near Eden’s Rivers." So does this suggest that Adam and T-Rex had friendly fun runs together, while Eve took a much-needed catnap under the Tree of Knowledge? Or that Noah's Ark was the size of several aircraft

A diroama exhibit at the Creation Museum bears as much reality to science as "The Flintstones."

carriers to hold all the animals? (To put 10,000 Biblical years in a genetic perspective, that's about the time when dogs branched off from wolves.) In any case, two anti-Darwinian arguments are made on the museum's site, albeit without the faintest whiff of evidence or empirical support: "natural selection is not evolution" and "Biblical history is the key to understanding dinosaurs."  Hmm, does this unwavering stance put the Holy Kibosh on several hundred million years of evidence found in the fossil record? For a detailed and critical look at the museum and its cadre of wide-eyed believers, go here. The author is PZ Myers, who is a biologist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris. He is a man of intellect and reason. The museum director and his supporters are shamelessly not.

Tagged as: Comments Off

‪Walking On All Fours: Human Quadrupeds‬ Offer Clues to Origins of Bipedalism

This amazing documentary about a Turkish family who walked on all fours first aired in 2006 on PBS, but given the current fascination in early man's ancestors and how they made the evolutionary and species-altering leap from walking on all fours to upright walking and then to running, this short Nova trailer is indeed timely-- and interesting to watch. According to an article on National Geographic's website, "German geneticists believe the siblings' genetic abnormality may have knocked out the gene responsible for bipedalism, or two-legged walking, in humans. Another team of researchers, including British evolutionary psychologist Nicholas Humphrey,{who studied the family in Turkey}, say the cause is twofold: the way the siblings were raised and brain damage resulting from the genetic defect.The behavior could potentially reveal much about our own evolution, Humphrey says.'Here we've got a living example of how it might be for a member of our species to walk on four legs.'Most experts assume that the quadruped ancestors of humans walked in a similar way to apes such as gorillas and chimpanzees. Chimps, our closest living relatives, use their whole hands and fingers for walking."

Tagged as: 1 Comment

Persistence Hunting in the Kalahari Required Endurance Running and Tracking; Go To 3:00 In Video to See Bushman’s Modern Footwear!

Persistence hunting, as we all learned from Christopher McDougall's account of the Kalahari Bushmen in Born To Run, involves an age-old yet now practically extinct form of tracking in which hunters, equipped with spears or bows and arrows pursued prey to the point of the animal's exhaustion. Because humans can sweat to reduce body heat and their quadruped prey can not, humans are able to run for many miles and for an extended period of time. We are the only primates who have the physiological gifts necessary for endurance running. Persistence hunting evolved two million years ago. Part 10 of David Attenborough's documentary,"The Life of Mammals," showed a Bushman running after a kudu antelope for eight consecutive hours until it collapsed from utter exhaustion.  No one knows to what extent the Bushmen continue to hunt this way, or how many are still able to run an animal to death.


Not Born to Run

What humans do in the name of science! Like having chimpanzees walk on a treadmill--get this!--upright and not on all fours, or better known in primate argot, as "knuckle-walking."  A few years back, scientists discovered that humans walking on two legs consume only a quarter of the energy that chimpanzees use while "knuckle-walking." The findings, which were first reported back in 2007 in the Journal for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, supports the notion that early humans became bipedal (using two legs) as a way to reduce energy costs associated with moving about. "Walking upright on two legs is a defining feature that makes us human," study leader Herman Pontzer, an anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis, then told the media. "It distinguishes our entire lineage from all other apes."

The researchers trained five chimps to walk both upright and on all fours on a treadmill. And like with any athlete put through the exercise treadmill meat-grinder, the monkeys wore masks to measure energy expenditure and oxygen consumption. To this day, scientists, however, are still unsure when precisely the origins of bipedalism first took place. Some believe that our ancestors climbed down from the trees for a sustained period of time around seven million years ago, and thus began the evolutionary journey from knuckle-walking to walking upright. And of course, running was soon to follow with more anatomical changes occurring in the feet, legs, and hips.

Tagged as: Comments Off