Lecture 1 – Elephants can't dance but hampsters can skydive

If a hamster and a human both fall from a skyscraper, why would the hamster fare better? Why can’t elephants dance and how strong are ants compared to humans? By exploring the physical rules that govern the animal kingdom, Mark Miodownik reveals how size governs the strength, life span and dance moves of animals.

We are all familiar with watching ants labouring for hours on a hot sunny day lifting crumbs or dragging bits of leaf back to their ant hill – but have you ever wondered how hard it is for them? They are often carrying 300 times their own weight, which is impressive when you consider that the world's strongest man can only lift three or four times his own weight. Are the materials that make up ant muscles much better than ours, or are we just not trying hard enough?

In the first of his Christmas Lectures Mark Miodownik reveals how the amount of sleep mammals need is in proportion to their size, and how all animals have the same number of heartbeats, but mice use them up quicker than elephants. 

Supported by

Topics

Natural world

Copyright

© Royal Institution / Windfall Films

Year

2010

Lecturer

Mark Miodownik

Duration

59:09

All lectures in the series