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Friday, May 29, 2015

Energy Expenditure During Music Appreciation

While it is undeniably true that at every stage of his life Bow has expended more energy on locomotion than Sword has, I still have my doubts about the conclusions in the article I linked yesterday.

I think that Bow expends more energy than we do even when at rest.

Bow has a much higher metabolism than we do, and this is largely due to his greater muscle mass.

Whether moving or at rest, Bow has to burn energy to maintain muscle mass. This also makes him a much more energetic participant in everything he does, and sometimes it seems he is just bouncing off the walls.

When we look at the video above, it is clear that Sword is much slower than Bow is, and that the lower energy cost of her locomotion is largely due to the fact that she has less muscle than Bow. In a competition for speed or endurance, Bow could beat her, no matter what form of locomotion he happens to be using. It's the fact that he is designed to burn more energy all the time that makes him a more efficient runner, climber and go-getter. Even when he has to hold Sword's hand and is awkwardly walking on two feet and one hand's knuckles, he is faster than Sword. He slows down to accommodate her walking gait, because they are walking together.

The hypothesis that humans became bipedal because walking on two uses less energy than the chimpanzee mode of walking is highly suspect to me, despite the numbers in the article I cited. I am sure their numbers are perfectly accurate, but the causal connection they are postulating just does not make sense.  I think they should also have compared the numbers on a sloth to see whether it is not just a side-effect of a higher metabolism. They should also have compared a human and a chimpanzee's energy expenditure during music appreciation.

Bow loves to listen to music. He has been listening to the The Sound of Music since he was very little, and when Lady Gaga gave her tribute to the fifty year old  musical at the Oscars, Bow became a very big fan of that Lady Gaga clip. He asks to watch it very frequently. He asked for it yesterday. And even this morning he spelled out: תני לי לשמוע מוזיקה . "Let me listen to music." When I asked him what kind of music he wanted to hear, he replied::גגה  "Gaga."

When Bow listens to music, every part of him is involved in the process of appreciating the music. He bounces off the concrete floor as if he were on a trampoline. He sways with the music, pounds out the beat, and comes to a crescendo of activity at the climax. And then stops.

Bow's reaction to Julie Andrews talking is much more quiet, calm and respectful than his frenzied involvement with Lady Gaga singing. But even when at rest and fondly sticking out his tongue at Julie Andrews -- a sign of affection -- he is probably burning more energy than the average fan of musicals who is human when at rest.

So I could postulate the hypothesis that humans developed bipedalism to help us burn less energy when listening to music, but how plausible is that? Isn't it much more likely that after we found less difficult ways to get food, our muscles and bones became degenerate, because the weaker among us were not culled out, and we began to have a lower metabolism, because our muscle mass was much lower? After all, there is evidence that the bones of hunter gatherers are much thicker than those of agricultural peoples.

Whatever the reason, Bow definitely expends more energy when listening to music than the average human being. High energy expenditure is as much caused by a naturally  high metabolism as it aids in developing higher muscle mass in those not originally blessed with this trait. That makes ferreting out which came first a little difficult.


  1. The part about bone mass I find interesting. You should write more about this.

    1. Hi, Julia, I do think it is interesting about the bone mass, but it is not my area of research. I did offer a link in the body of the post to an article on that. It even includes a photo of the cross-section of the bones of chimpanzees, different hominids and humans from different eras.

      I think we often tell ourselves that the path that uses up less energy that we chose is the better one, because it gives us more leisure. But in fact this also makes us less healthy and robust. It's use it or lose it! Bow prefers to use it, even when he does not have to exert himself to get food.

  2. Wow, Bow really does expend a lot of energy when listening to that video. HAHA! More than I expend on a long walk. Has he listened to anything else by Lady Gaga? I really like only a few of her things - "Poker Face" is one of them. (If you decide to look up her official video for that song, make sure you view it first without Bow - it has a couple of lions in it - not sure how Bow would react to that). I'm amazed that Bow doesn't hurt himself with his constant knocking on the glass too. Just an observation that overall he seems to be less aware of any pain that hitting the glass or lying on his bench would normally cause a human. Are chimpanzee's tolerance for pain also higher than humans? Maybe he's not really hitting it that hard - it's hard for me to tell in the video. Anyway, I watched the video with him and Sword a couple of times and noticed that all his movements have a purpose - there is not a lot of wasted energy.
    Looking back at the cave men, they all were well muscled and probably moved a lot more efficiently than any of us do these days!

    1. No, Bow has not listened to anything else of Lady Gaga's so far. I will give Poker Face a listen tonight, to see if I think Bow might like it. His delight at this video I think stems from already being very familiar with the songs and then finding that someone else could sing them besides Julie Andrews and the other original singers in the movie.

      I think that when Bow has a lot of adrenaline from excitement, he does not notice an occasional bruise until later. But he also is very tough and does not get hurt easily. As for lying that way on the bench, I think he finds it comfortable.

      The movements Bow makes are perfectly efficient, but the point of the research I referred to was that chimps burn more calories than humans when walking. They make it sound like a bad thing. But having a more muscular body with a higher metabolism in general leads to more calorie expenditure, even when we compare average men to average women.

  3. Oh, I agree with more muscles = more calories burned. I keep reminding my Mom of that - it's great that she spends so much time on the treadmill, as do my other friends - but I learned a long time ago, that I could cut my cardio time down and lift weights with the last 15 minutes and lose more weight!