Design of the Month

Silly walks

The following quotation is taken from the Independent of 29 July 2009. It cites a paper published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society, Series B, DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2009.0664.

The mystery of why people swing their arms while walking rather than holding them still and rigid like the famous silly walk of John Cleese in his Monty Python sketch appears to have been solved. An experiment involving making a group of volunteers take equally silly walks in a laboratory setting has confirmed that arm swinging makes walking more efficient and easier. ...

A study based on the movements of 10 volunteers who were asked to perform a series of unnatural walks under experimental conditions has shown that swinging the arms in opposition to the legs significantly increases the efficiency of walking. ...

Dr Collins and his colleagues set up an experiment where people were studied as they walked in a variety of poses - normally with the arms swinging in opposition to each leg, with their arms at their sides either tied or held there voluntarily, or with each arm unnaturally forced to move in synchrony with each leg. ...

"Further, our results showed that normal arm swinging made walking much easier. Holding the arms at one's sides increased the effort of walking - measured by metabolic rate - by 12 per cent, which is quite a lot of walking, about the same as walking 20 per cent faster or carrying a 10 kg backpack," Dr Collins said.

  1. What were the experimental units and how many of them were there?
  2. What were the treatments and how many of them were there?
  3. Exactly what was measured?
  4. How do you think the experiment was designed?
  5. Can you improve on the design?

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