Journal - 1 October 2000: The Movement of Squirrels as a Function of a Sine Wave, or An Application of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics

An interesting conversation was had between my roommate and myself. He quoted a passage from book 10 of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics that implied that neither plants nor sleeping people can be happy. We both disputed this fact. I pointed out that "I am very happy when I'm asleep. It's one of my favorite activities. I can't get enough of the stuff." While on the topic of unhappiness, my roommate pointed out that chipmunks are very unhappy. I did, as I often do, confuse chipmunks and squirrels. "They are very happy," I retorted, "They are always running around by Pullen Hall and the TriTowers." "Those are squirrels; anything that moves in a sine wave is very happy." As it turns out, he was referring to the profile of their body movement (tail and torso move in a wavelike sine pattern). I misinterpreted it as the path the squirrel takes, as seen from above. We eventually resolved this misinterpretation, which led to the highly inevitable question, "What would you have to do to a squirrel in order to have it walk in a sine pattern?" He proposed that if one cut off one and a half of its legs (one on one side, half on the other), the squirrel would walk progressively more to one direction, until he turned with a burst of compensation in the other. This presented a minor problem: these bursts would be shown as speedy bursts of new direction, not the sloping form needed. In fact, it would more closely resemble the pattern of the absolute value of sine, as noted in figure 2. To solve the problem, I proposed the theory that would later be accepted as a feasible solution to this problem. Simply cut off two full arms, and attach two pneumatic false arms to the squirrel. Have these arms extend and retract on a timer that is based on a sine wave. The squirrel's efforts to straighten would then be buffered by the arm adjustments, allowing for a smooth sine wave of travel. Thank God for math, science, Aristotle, and most of all, myself.


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