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Saturday, May 15, 2004

What's The Human Speed Limit via Forbes

How fast can a human being run? Right now, the theoretical limit is just under 30 miles per hour--but a new era of gene therapy could soon extend our species' capacity for speed.Current runners already are touching the limits of what can be accomplished with the bodies nature gave themA dog, an ostrich, a cheetah, they can blow us away, says Weyand of Rice university. "And the materials they use to run--their bones, their muscles, their tendons--are no different than ours."Exactly what makes one kind of animal faster than another is complex and not entirely understood. One surprise: Apparently, it doesn't matter how many legs you have. Four-footed creatures are not inherently faster.Another surprise: All human runners move their legs at about the same rate, according to a study Weyand and his colleagues published in The Journal of Applied Physiology in 2000. "The slowest woman in our study, the time she took to reposition her leg was the same as Donovan Bailey, even though she could only sprint half as fast,".What matters is not so much how fast the legs can move, but how much force they can exert on the ground. Researchers think a genetic tweak to increase mitochondrial density just a little--a few percentage points--could make a runner much faster pushing the edge further.
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