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Walking On Thin Air

Tightrope walking is probably not something that the normal average American citizen would call a healthy hobby, and quite frankly, I wouldn't call it anywhere near healthy either. That said, tightrope walking is an amazing feat to be watched while in a nice safe seat secured to the ground. It is a dance with death, as the dramatic crowd would say. To walk high above the ground, without protection, on a wire almost thinner than a pencil, that is most definitely a carefully done dance with death.

Acrobats (a.k.a. the only people insane enough to walk on a wire) balance themselves by positioning their center of mass right over their base of support, shifting almost all of their weight over their legs. When on the ground with feet side by side, the base of support is wide in the lateral direction, but narrow in the sagital or back-to-front direction. A tightrope walker's lateral support is drastically reduced while walking on the wire. Their ankle is always the pivot point.

A pole is sometimes used to help the walker's balance. Although, umbrellas and pool sticks have also been used as amusing ways to spice up the act, even thought it's already spicy as an jalapeno. The pole is used to help distribute mass away from the pivot point and to move the center of mass outward. Doing this reduces the angular velocity since the center of mass must swing through a longer arc. The nice outcome of wielding a pole while on a thin wire is less tipping.

While walking on the wire most walkers don't pick Nikes as their shoe of choice. Most use thin leather-soled slippers, as to feel the wire and to bend the foot around it easily. Some walkers choose to perform without any shoes at all, although most professionals do not.

Although tightrope walking is an amazingly interesting subject, I do not suggest trying it just yet. Actually I don't suggest it at all, because Stephen Peer already did it across Niagara Falls in the 1800s, so what is left to do? I just really don't see any fun in doing it since he's already done that, I'll just stick to walking on the ground. Its really a whole lot softer when you trip and fall on it from six feet up compared to sixty.



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