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科学美国人60秒:响指背后惊人的物理现象

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Karen Hopkin: This is Scientific American’s 60-Second Science. I’m Karen Hopkin.

这里是《科学美国人》的 60 秒科学。我是凯伦·霍普金。

Doing science isn’t easy. It takes an enormous amount of time and energy to collect and analyze data. At least, that’s the way it usually works.

科学研究不容易,你许要耗费大量时间和精力去收集、分析数据,至少一般来说是如此。

Saad Bhamla: This is one of those examples that we joke that we can snap our fingers and get data.

萨阿德·巴姆拉:“我们常常开玩笑说,只要打个响指,数据就到手。”美国佐治亚理工学院(Georgia Tech)的萨阿德·巴姆拉(Saad Bhamla)说道。

Hopkin: That’s because Saad Bhamla and his students just wrapped up a study of the physics of finger snapping. They found that the right amount of friction is key to a successful snap. Their work appears in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface. [Raghav Acharya et al., The ultrafast snap of a finger is mediated by skin friction]

霍普金:萨阿德·巴姆拉和学生刚刚完成了一项关于打响指的物理学研究,他们发现,恰到好处的摩擦是打响指成功的关键。研究结果发表在《英国皇家学会界面杂志》(Journal of the Royal Society Interface)上。

Bhamla’s lab at Georgia Tech focuses on ultrafast motion in nature.

巴姆拉的实验室主要研究自然中的超快运动

Bhamla: Organisms can achieve really, really fast motions, and we are curious about how they’re able to do this and how we may extract those principles for perhaps synthetic systems.

巴姆拉:生物有机体可以实现非常非常快速的运动,我们既好奇它们是如何做到的,也想通过提炼出其中的原理,实现可能的合成系统。

Hopkin: Their science may be hard-core. But their lab meetings include time to be a bit more playful.

霍普金:巴姆拉团队的研究可能相当硬核,但他们有时也会玩得非常开心。

Bhamla: We have something called Super Happy Fun Time. And in this, we’ll talk about something typically nonscientific just to kind of defuse the situation after a typically intense scientific discussion that a student presents.

巴姆拉:我们有特定的‘超级开心玩耍时间’(Super Happy Fun Time),用来讨论非常不科学的东西,在一场典型的激烈科学讨论后让学生放松一下。

Hopkin: A couple years back, their talk turned to the movie Infinity Wars. In the climax of this Avengers flick, supervillain Thanos forever alters the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a snap of his massive, metal-clad fingers. But something about the scene left Bhamla scratching his head.

霍普金:几年前,他们讨论到《复联4:无限战争》(Infinity Wars)这部电影。在电影的高潮,超级大反派灭霸带上装满无限宝石的金属手套打了一个响指,彻底改变了漫威电影宇宙(Marvel Cinematic Universe)。但这一幕中有一点让巴姆拉摸不着头脑。

Bhamla: And I said, “You know what? I’m willing to make a bet that if you had metallic gauntlets like Thanos has, I would suspect that it’s actually very difficult to store energy in a controllable way.”

巴姆拉:你知道吗?我很乐意打个赌,如果你有一副像灭霸那样的金属手套,我怀疑以可控的方式储存能量会非常非常困难。

Hopkin: Energy that then has to get quickly released if you really want to snap. So Raghav Acharya, a student in Bhamla’s lab, set up an experiment.

霍普金:如果你真想打个响指,能量必须要很快释放出去。巴姆拉的学生拉加夫·阿查里亚(Raghav Acharya)为此设计了一个实验。

Bhamla: He put some reflective dots on his fingers so he could automatically track the finger movement when you take a side view video with a high-speed camera—just to be able to extract out the velocities and accelerations.

巴姆拉:他在自己手指上设置了几个反射点,这样一来,用高速摄像机从侧面拍摄视频时,就能自动跟踪手指运动,从而算出速度和加速度。

Hopkin: Because the first thing they wanted to know was: Just how fast is this jazzy hepcat gesture?

霍普金:因为他们想要知道的第一件事情就是:这个花里胡哨的爵士手势(打响指)速度有多快?

Bhamla: We discovered that the finger snap takes about seven milliseconds. To put that into context, that’s 20 times faster than the blink of an eye. A blink of an eye is glacially slow: it’s like about 150 milliseconds.

巴姆拉:我们发现,打一个响指的时间是7毫秒。对比一下,这比眨眼快20倍。眨眼睛其实和龟速一样:需要约150毫秒。

Hopkin: Even more impressive than its speed was its acceleration, which was three times faster than the throwing arm of a big-league baseball pitcher.

霍普金:比起速度,更让人印象深刻的是加速度,比顶尖棒球投手挥臂的加速度还要高三倍。

Bhamla: So here we have a snap done by scientists. So we’re no professional athletes; we barely go to the gym. And we’re about almost three times in acceleration faster. So that kind of led to this question: How are we able to perform this seemingly extraordinary feat of acrobatics and human dexterity?

巴姆拉:我们的响指是科学家打的:不是职业运动员,也几乎从来不去健身房。但我们的加速度是职业运动员的三倍。那么问题来了:我们如何完成这一看起像杂技一样灵巧的动作呢?

Hopkin: To find out, they started to fiddle with friction. First, Raghav and his grad student mentor Elio Challita used some moisturizer to make their fingers a little more slippery. And they found the resulting snaps were not so snappy. So then they went the other way.

霍普金:为此,团队开始调整摩擦。首先,拉加夫和自己的研究生导师埃利奥·查利塔(Elio Challita)用润肤霜让自己的手指稍稍变得润滑。结果发现打不出响指了。接着,他们尝试向另一个方向调整。

Bhamla: Counterintuitively, we thought, “Oh, friction is great. Let’s put some high-friction rubber pads”—thinking, “If I increase the friction, I’m going to get a louder snap perhaps.”

巴姆拉:与直觉相反,我们想‘哦,摩擦很重要。试试用一些高摩擦力的橡胶当作指垫吧。我们以为,增加摩擦就能打出更响的响指。’

Hopkin: But that also squelched the snap because you waste too much of the stored energy trying to get your fingers to slide past each other.

霍普金:但这样也打不出响指,因为手指滑动的时候,浪费了太多储存的能量。

Bhamla: And so it turns out that, in our experiments, we find that the skin friction is kind of this optimal sweet spot in this Goldilocks zone that gives you enough energy but also detaches quickly to give you the snap [snaps].

巴姆拉:在实验中,我们发现皮肤摩擦就好比宜居带中的最佳位置,既给你足够的能量,也可让手指快速分开,打出响指。

Hopkin: And as for Thanos?

霍普金:那灭霸呢?

Bhamla: If you put copper thimbles, which we did to test the Thanos hypothesis, turns out that the compressibility of the finger pads is important as well. If you have these rigid surfaces, although the friction is the same as the skin, not being able to compress affects the grip and storage of energy, so you get a very weak, or not really a satisfactory, snap.

巴姆拉:用铜质顶针(指套)测试“灭霸假说”,结果发现指腹的压缩性也很重要。如果指腹材料太硬,即使摩擦与皮肤相同,也无法被按压,这会影响抓取力以及能量储存,即使可以打出响指,效果也非常弱,无法令人满意。

Hopkin: Bhamla wonders whether there’s also something special about the shape of our hands that gives us this ability. Or can other primates do it, too?

霍普金:巴姆拉想搞清楚我们的手型是否有独特之处,让我们获得打响指的能力。或者说,其他灵长类动物也会打响指吗?

Bhamla: I have written so many e-mails to so many anthropologists, zookeepers.

巴姆拉:我给很多人类学家、动物管理员写了很多邮件。

Hopkin: He’s even gone back to the movies.

霍普金:他甚至回去看了其他电影。

Bhamla: What if I saw, in Planet of the Apes, these apes sitting on top of a horse and snapping? Well that would be okay for me because somebody at least imagined it, right? Maybe they did their homework. Maybe it was described in some journal somewhere by a naturalist.

巴姆拉:说不定我能在电影里,比如《人猿星球》(Planet of the Apes)里,看到那些人猿边骑在马背上,边打着响指呢?如果有,我觉得也挺正常,因为至少有人想象过人猿也会打响指,不是吗?有可能他们事先做了功课,也有可能某位自然学家已经在某本期刊上描述过这一点。

Hopkin: If you’ve ever seen a chimp snap, please let Bhamla know. In the meantime, he’ll continue to pursue projects that captivate his curiosity.

霍普金:所以,如果你曾看到过黑猩猩打响指,请联系巴姆拉。与此同时,他将继续追寻自己感兴趣的科研项目。

Bhamla: Life is too short to do boring stuff. I think it’s more enjoyable for me and the students to say, “Oh my god, like, how cool is that?” And when nature pushes the limits of physics and engineering, there are interesting things to be gleaned out of it.

巴姆拉:人生苦短,不要浪费时间做无聊之事。喊出‘哦,这太酷了!’的时候,是我和学生感到最快乐的时刻。在大自然突破了我们的物理和工程极限时,其中一定存在有趣的信息等待我们发现。

Hopkin: Plus, you can explain your findings like [snaps].

霍普金:另外,你也能去解释你的有趣发现,就像响指研究一样。

Bhamla: My parents now get it [laughs]. Well, I think they do.

巴姆拉:我父母现在明白了。嗯,我觉得他们明白了。

Hopkin: For Scientific American’s 60-Second Science, I’m Karen Hopkin.

霍普金:以上是今天《科学美国人》60秒科学的全部内容。凯伦·霍普金报道。

Karen Hopkin: This is Scientific American’s 60-Second Science. I’m Karen Hopkin.

Doing science isn’t easy. It takes an enormous amount of time and energy to collect and analyze data. At least, that’s the way it usually works.

Saad Bhamla: This is one of those examples that we joke that we can snap our fingers and get data.

Hopkin: That’s because Saad Bhamla and his students just wrapped up a study of the physics of finger snapping. They found that the right amount of friction is key to a successful snap. Their work appears in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface. [Raghav Acharya et al., The ultrafast snap of a finger is mediated by skin friction]

Bhamla’s lab at Georgia Tech focuses on ultrafast motion in nature.

Bhamla: Organisms can achieve really, really fast motions, and we are curious about how they’re able to do this and how we may extract those principles for perhaps synthetic systems.

Hopkin: Their science may be hard-core. But their lab meetings include time to be a bit more playful.

Bhamla: We have something called Super Happy Fun Time. And in this, we’ll talk about something typically nonscientific just to kind of defuse the situation after a typically intense scientific discussion that a student presents.

Hopkin: A couple years back, their talk turned to the movie Infinity Wars. In the climax of this Avengers flick, supervillain Thanos forever alters the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a snap of his massive, metal-clad fingers. But something about the scene left Bhamla scratching his head.

Bhamla: And I said, “You know what? I’m willing to make a bet that if you had metallic gauntlets like Thanos has, I would suspect that it’s actually very difficult to store energy in a controllable way.”

Hopkin: Energy that then has to get quickly released if you really want to snap. So Raghav Acharya, a student in Bhamla’s lab, set up an experiment.

Bhamla: He put some reflective dots on his fingers so he could automatically track the finger movement when you take a side view video with a high-speed camera—just to be able to extract out the velocities and accelerations.

Hopkin: Because the first thing they wanted to know was: Just how fast is this jazzy hepcat gesture?

Bhamla: We discovered that the finger snap takes about seven milliseconds. To put that into context, that’s 20 times faster than the blink of an eye. A blink of an eye is glacially slow: it’s like about 150 milliseconds.

Hopkin: Even more impressive than its speed was its acceleration, which was three times faster than the throwing arm of a big-league baseball pitcher.

Bhamla: So here we have a snap done by scientists. So we’re no professional athletes; we barely go to the gym. And we’re about almost three times in acceleration faster. So that kind of led to this question: How are we able to perform this seemingly extraordinary feat of acrobatics and human dexterity?

Hopkin: To find out, they started to fiddle with friction. First, Raghav and his grad student mentor Elio Challita used some moisturizer to make their fingers a little more slippery. And they found the resulting snaps were not so snappy. So then they went the other way.

Bhamla: Counterintuitively, we thought, “Oh, friction is great. Let’s put some high-friction rubber pads”—thinking, “If I increase the friction, I’m going to get a louder snap perhaps.”

Hopkin: But that also squelched the snap because you waste too much of the stored energy trying to get your fingers to slide past each other.

Bhamla: And so it turns out that, in our experiments, we find that the skin friction is kind of this optimal sweet spot in this Goldilocks zone that gives you enough energy but also detaches quickly to give you the snap [snaps].

Hopkin: And as for Thanos?

Bhamla: If you put copper thimbles, which we did to test the Thanos hypothesis, turns out that the compressibility of the finger pads is important as well. If you have these rigid surfaces, although the friction is the same as the skin, not being able to compress affects the grip and storage of energy, so you get a very weak, or not really a satisfactory, snap.

Hopkin: Bhamla wonders whether there’s also something special about the shape of our hands that gives us this ability. Or can other primates do it, too?

Bhamla: I have written so many e-mails to so many anthropologists, zookeepers.

Hopkin: He’s even gone back to the movies.

Bhamla: What if I saw, in Planet of the Apes, these apes sitting on top of a horse and snapping? Well that would be okay for me because somebody at least imagined it, right? Maybe they did their homework. Maybe it was described in some journal somewhere by a naturalist.

Hopkin: If you’ve ever seen a chimp snap, please let Bhamla know. In the meantime, he’ll continue to pursue projects that captivate his curiosity.

Bhamla: Life is too short to do boring stuff. I think it’s more enjoyable for me and the students to say, “Oh my god, like, how cool is that?” And when nature pushes the limits of physics and engineering, there are interesting things to be gleaned out of it.

Hopkin: Plus, you can explain your findings like [snaps].

Bhamla: My parents now get it [laughs]. Well, I think they do.

Hopkin: For Scientific American’s 60-Second Science, I’m Karen Hopkin.


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