Friday, February 26, 2010

Sign Language

The first records of sign language date back to the early 17th century. In 1620, Spanish priest Juan Pablo Bonet published Reduction of Letter and Art for Teaching Mute People to Speak (Boy that’s a mouthful), the first alphabet for the deaf. From his work, philanthropic educator Charles-Michel de I’Epee published his alphabet a century later which has been left largely unchanged since.

Charles-Michel de I’Epee

Did you know?- Just like scientists have a universal system of measurement, the metric system, deaf people have a similar network. Known as International Sign, it is used at the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) as well as the Deaflympics, Olympics held strictly for those of hard hearing where participants compete in many of the same games.

Although widely viewed as being more limited that oral languages, sign language has the advantage of communicating through sight; not only through techniques like facial expressions and body movement but much more. Think of it like this…oral language is linear. What I mean by that is when speaking; only one sound can be made or heard at a time. On the other hand, sign language is visual, meaning a whole scene can be taken in at once. Here’s an example:

Let’s take a look at the phrase, “I went to the park.” Spoken, he/she would need to make the phrase longer to give additional information, such as, “I went to the park while it was sunny. It was beautiful.” In American Sign Language (ASL), details about the day and your feelings about it can be conveyed through with the verb ‘went’ by performing simultaneous gestures like specific hand movements, body posture, and facial expression. I other words, the deaf can shorten the new two word phrase back into its original format, “I went to the park.”

Sign language has five elements. They are:

Handshape (handform)
Orientation (palm orientation)
Location (place of articulation)
Expression (facial expression)

Together they form the acronym HOLME which has become easy to remember when learning the language. If you’re interested in learning sign for whatever reason (So you and your friend have a secret language, or you can insult people without their knowing) watch the video below to see if you can master the numbers 1-20 as well as the English alphabet.

If you still think you would like to learn sign, visit While there are countless other software programs to download online to learn ASL, this site is the best compilation of free lessons and tutorials that I could find.

Did you know?- In terms of sentence construction, ASL shares more with spoken Japanese than it does with English.

Yet whether you make a conscious choice to learn sign or not, you may find the language becoming more main stream in popular culture. Recently, there has been a movement to teach and encourage the use of sign language with toddlers before they learn to talk because young children can communicate effectively with signed languages before they are physically capable of speech. There have also been several breeds of primate such as the chimpanzee and gorilla that scientists have taught basic signs to in our hope to communicate with them. Below is part 1 of the 8 part series 1978 documentary, Koko: A Talking Gorilla, which showcases the abilities of a wonderful gorilla by the name of Koko who knows more than 1,000 signs of ASL as well as 2,000 spoken English words.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Louvre

ornithopter drawing

Leonardo da Vinci was not only a brilliant artist, but an ingenious inventor. The public has been showered with ‘da Vinci’ media these past couple years with the release of Dan Brown’s best-selling novel, The Da Vinci Code, as well as universities and engineering firms beginning to recreate many of his old ideas that were only left on paper. One can see how much confidence da Vinci had in his own intellect; he never attempted to build any of his inventions because he knew they would work. My favorite design was his ornithopter, a man-powered machine that attained flight with the flapping of artificial wings. While this idea has been proven to work in small scale, humans are still developing a machine that can transport us with the grace of birds.


Yet to most, Leondardo is the painter of The Mona Lisa housed inside the Louvre in Paris, France. Properly known as the Grand Louvre, this is the most visited museum in the world. It is also one of the largest museums at 652,300 square feet (60,600 square meters) containing nearly 35,000 objects dating from the dawn our beginning to the 19th century.

The museum was originally a fortress built in the late 12th century under King Philip II of France. Charles X converted the building into the royal family’s quarters in 1546. After that, it underwent multiple additions and remained the primary residence of the king and queen until 1672 when Louis XIV switched to the Palace of Versailles. Since then, its vast halls have been mainly used to exhibit artwork from the royal families.

Did you know?- During the Second French Empire (Napoleon III ruled from 1852-1870) the museum gained 20,000 pieces of art!

The current collection is divided into eight departments:

• Egyptian Antiquities
• Near Eastern Antiquities
• Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
• Islamic Art
• Sculpture
• Decorative Arts
• Paintings
• Prints and Drawings

Although not highly publicized, the Louvre is actually owned by the French government. Since 2003, they have required the museum to generate funds for municipal projects. The government currently provides 62% of the museum’s funding with the remainder coming from private contributions and ticket sales.

Did you know?- In order to keep everything running, the museum employs 2,000 people!

One of the Louvre’s main architectural features is the glass pyramid in the central courtyard. Architect I. M. Pei was appointed the task and was completed in October 1988. The second phase of Pei’s plan, La Pyramide Inversée (the Inverted Pyramid), was completed in 1993. Upon reaching the year 2002, the museum’s attendance had doubled due to its completion!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Powered Paragliding

When the idea to travel around the world first appeared in my thoughts, my main question was how I would get around. Originally, I thought of riding a motorcycle but realized that I wanted to see the globe a lot slower than 55mph. Then I considered just walking or hitchhiking my way across the planet. However, because I wouldn’t be able to carry as much on the road, this idea dissolved as well. Finally after some research, I decided on bicycle touring as the perfect solution. (click here to learn more)

Still, I know that someday the intense craving to see the Earth in new ways will resurface again. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to see scenery from the ground, but what about the sky? Thus far I’ve written about quite a few ways that I’d like to experience flight someday, but today I want to reveal my ultimate fantasy. To travel across the sky at only 15-20 mph strapped into a powered paraglider.

Also known as paramotoring, powered paragliding is a type of ultralight aircraft where a pilot wears a motor on his/her back (called a paramotor) which creates enough thrust for the parafoil wing to ascend. Takeoff requires no assistance as the pilot simply runs until the desired speed is reached for takeoff.

In the United States, the sport requires no license to fly probably because it is incredibly safe at low altitude and slow speeds. What makes this so appealing to me as well as thousands of other people is that fact that you don’t need a lot of equipment to get started. Also factor in that maintenance costs are low and with no cockpit it gives the rider an incredible free flight feeling where one can view more of their surroundings.

Before I go any further, I think it’s important to distinguish between two commonly mistaken forms of powered parafoil flight. Powered parachuting (PPC) assemblies have easier to control, yet less efficient wings then paramotors, as well as larger engines, slower flight speeds (25-35 mph) and that pilots steer with their feet.

powered parachute

Paramotors can fly between 15-45 mph (25-70 Km/h) at altitudes of up to 18,000 feet (5,400 meters) although the majority of pilots stay under 500 feet (150 meters). The motor weighs between 45-80 pounds (20-36 Kg) and requires only about 10 feet (3 meters) of runway, excluding the parafoil, to take off. Unfortunately, due to the parafoil’s low flight speed and susceptibility to crosswinds, the sport is normally reserved for the summer months.

Did you know?- A complete, new paragliding package can cost between $6,000 to $9,500, while used equipment could run you anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000.

As I said earlier, while you don’t need a license to operate these machines in most countries, it’s still recommended you complete some sort of training course. Most courses take only about a month to complete.

Some paramotor pilots choose to attach lightweight trikes to their motor assembly if they can’t foot launch properly. In some countries, such as England, this modification changes the aircraft’s status and requires a license to fly.

In the U.S., powered paragliding is represented by the US Powered Paragliding Association (USSPA) as well as the US Ultralight Association.

Did you know?- In 2007, world famous adventurer and TV star, Bear Grylls, flew over the Himalayas using a paramotor. Although not officially confirmed, Bear claims to have reached an altitude of 8,990 meters (24,294 feet) where he saw the tip of Mount Everest!

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Red Square

There are a lot of places that have somehow managed to pack a lot of importance into a small place. One example is Madison Square Garden, the most noteworthy square block in New York City. Another is the Louvre art museum in France, home to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Even Plymouth Rock, the landing point of America’s first immigrants, is important in my country’s short history while still being a pile of limestone.

Yeah...that's it.

What is it about these places that give them so much prestige? It could be what happened at the local, but so many areas in the world are distinguished with history. It could be the people who graced them with their presence, but I don’t think that’s it either. I believe, in the end, some places are famous not for their past or relevant meaning but just because they’re there; whether by fate or not if you believe in such a thing.

One of the most famous city squares on Earth is the Red Square. Located in Moscow, Russia, the square’s original purpose was to serve as the city’s main marketplace as well as to be the site of public ceremonies like the coronations of czars.

Red Square

There has been much debate on how the square received its name. Despite what you may have heard, it’s not because the bricks around the area are red or because of the association with communism. Instead, it came about because the Russian word for red can also mean ‘beautiful’. Although its alternative meaning was originally applied to Saint Basil’s Cathedral, it was later expanded to encompass the entire square.

Saint Basil's Cathedral

Everywhere you look around the Red Square there is something to admire and learn about. Lenin’s Mausoleum contains the body of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union. I already mentioned Saint Basil’s Cathedral which marks the geometric center of Moscow and the center of which all construction has been built since the 14th century. It was the tallest building in the city until the completion of the Ivan the Great Bell Tower in 1600.

Lenin's mausoleum

On the eastern side of the square there is the GUM (pronounced as ‘goom’) department store (now a shopping mall). In the shape of a trapezoid, the building combines Russian medieval architecture with modern design elements such as steel beams and a glass roof.

the GUM

inside the GUM

Next to the department store is the Kazan Cathedral, an Orthodox church built in the 1630s marking Russia’s freedom from aggressive Polish occupants. Then there is the State Historical Museum which showcases some of the country’s earliest historical artifacts as well as a countless number of priceless artworks dating back to the Romanov dynasty.

Kazan Cathedral

State Historical Museum

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


As an aspiring explorer, I have deep respect for the first adventurers of our time. Some of my favorite expeditions involve journeys to the most isolated places on Earth. And nothing rings true to the words ‘unforgiving and inhospitable’ than the Arctic. Expeditions at both poles were remarkable, whether it was the first ship to reach the Arctic Circle, the first man to reach the North Pole, or attempting the longest unsupported arctic trip in history (click here to see the related post).

But what makes travel so difficult in these places? Anyone who’s seen the raw power contained below the 30th parallel feels that everything around you is trying to kill you. Early explorers had ice as their main enemy; early ships only had wooden hulls and were powered by the wind leaving ice breaking to be done by hand. And it was never that simple. When you saw ice on open water you were likely to see it again, whether dressed as wandering ice flows, icebergs, or solid sheets spanning hundreds of miles.

International DN

In an attempt to make the transition from one medium to another easier, the iceboat (also called an ice/bay scooter) was created. Upon completion it could traverse between ice and open water with no changes in its structure required. Yet it was incredibly difficult to control; having no rudder, its course could only be directed by adjusting the main and jib sails. The earliest models ranged between 30-50 feet (9-15 meters) long and were used mainly for transportation of goods.

Did you know?- In 1869 the largest iceboat developed, for racing on the Hudson River in New York, named the Icicle came in at 69 feet (21 meters) long. It’s also recorded that in 1871 the boat beat the Chicago Express train on a run between Poughkeepsie and Ossining. This was not unheard of as early ice yacht clubs would often race trains.

iceboat race

Today, iceboats or ice yachts are primarily seen racing in clubs around the world. Perhaps the most recognizable class of these vessels is the International DN. The name stands for the Detroit News newspaper where the first one was built in 1937. Its design features a narrow, single-person cockpit, three steel blades arranged in a tricycle configuration, and a steeply raked mast. Boats in this class are required to be 12 (3.5 meters) feet long, with an 8 foot (2.5 meter) wide runner plank, a 16 foot (5 meter) mast, and have a sail square area of 60 feet.

Did you know?- With just a smooth ice surface and a steady wind of 12-15 mph, the International DN can reach speeds of up to 55-65 mph!

Those who live by a large body of water, in a seasonal climate, have no reason to pass up the opportunity to glide across the ice in one of these boats. Although they are expensive to buy and even harder to find, the majority are made by average Joes in garages all across the northern continents. By clicking here you can see the most comprehensive, free guide I could find on building your own International DN iceboat on a limited budget.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Zorbing (which also goes by globe-riding, sphereing, or orbing) is the stomach stirring experience of rolling downhill in an ‘orb’ made of transparent plastic. Zorbs come in two designs: harnessed or non-harnessed. Constructions with harnesses can carry up to three riders, while harnessed designs carry only one or two.

Outdoor Gravity Orb (OGO)

The zorb’s construction is both simple and ingenious. The ball is double-sectioned, with a small sphere inside a larger one with a layer of trapped air between. The difference between the two diameters results in a 20”-24” cushion of air. With the zorb being made of flexible plastic, this buffer helps to cushion the rider from any irregularities in the slope surface. Sometimes, operators place water inside the spheres to reduce friction allowing the ball to roll underneath its riders without tossing them around as violently.

The idea behind the orb’s design is based off of the small rodent balls that have been in production since the 1970s. It wasn’t until the 1980s that humans would adopt the principle for themselves in a big way. The Dangerous Sports Club constructed a giant sphere 23 meters (75.5 feet) in diameter with a gimbals arrangement supporting two deck chairs inside. No pictures of the machine have been found as it was shortly disassembled thereafter for scrap.

In 1994, Dwane van der Sluis and Andrew Akers created the first zorb in Auckland, New Zealand. After acquiring two investors, they were quick to capitalize on the idea creating the now famous firm ZORB Limited. After years of networking, similar companies such as Downhill Revolution have been created as well as a couple of spin-off inventions like the Outdoor Gravity Orb (OGO) and the Fishpipe.


Fishpipe- The world’s first rotating barrel ride. Up to three riders enter the barrel where operators then add 20 gallons (75 liters) or water and spin the contraption up to 45 revolutions per minute. Occupants can attempt to surf the ride while standing up though it’s difficult to get the hang of.

Did you know?- Although zorbs generally descend gentle slopes, I want to break the land-speed record for a zorb! The world record for fastest zorb ride is held by Keith Kolver at a speed of 32.3 mph (52 Km/h).

The reporter below thought it would be funny to be struck by an empty zorb rolling down a hill. She was wrong…

Friday, February 12, 2010

International Birdman Competition

Ever since man first gazed at the sky, it has dreamed of flying. Not until a little over a hundred years ago did that realization come to pass. Society has the Wright brothers to thank for the conveniences of modern flight, but if it wasn’t for the groundwork completed by previous visionaries, we might still be grounded today. Yet, if you watch the old black and white reels of inventors testing their weird flying machines, it looks like the Wright brothers made huge bounds with their research. And even though we’ve progressed far in avionics this past century, the desire to realize flight is still present in the hearts of average Joes all across the world. So sometimes you just have to go against all logic, build a giant paper-Mache chicken, run off the end of a pier, and hope for the best. What?!

The International Birdman Competition is held annually in Worthing, England. The event has always been held on piers in West Sussex, on the island’s southern coast, originally beginning in Selsey, then moved to Bognor Regis, and finally to Worthing in 2008. Although similar events have manifested, this competition is the oldest Birdman Rally in the world.

The rules are simple, contestants take off running down a 30 foot high pier attempting to fly the furthest distance until striking the water surface. As of 2009, a reward stood at £30,000 ($46,900) for anyone who could reach 100 meters (330 feet) past the pier’s end.

While there is always a share of serious individuals competing each year, most participants enter to just have fun. In the rally’s long history, contest organizers have seen too many preposterous-looking contraptions to name. In order to keep festivities moving the event has been divided between advanced aviators looking to win and those who just want to make a big splash.

Did you know?- Steve Elkins set the record for longest flight in 2009 at 99.8 meters (327 feet)! He didn’t win the prize money.

I want to know…If you entered this contest, what would your aircraft be modeled after? Maybe a prehistoric pterodactyl or a refrigerator with wings? Leave a comment below.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Alaskan Highway

Last week I finished finalizing my bicycle tour directions from home (Toledo, OH) to Leavenworth, WA. And let me tell you, at this point, I’m pretty sick of looking at roads in Google Maps. In fact, the realization that I will be sharing the same roads as thousands of vehicles on a rickety bicycle leaves me a little timid. When I’m done with my first leg I’ll probably be too afraid to drive again because I’ll after having become so acquainted with the fear of being struck by traffic. Although after months of recovery, I’ll probably be back on the road heading back towards the Atlantic Ocean.

the Alaskan Highway

Yet someday, whether it’s when I’m in Washington or down in Florida, I’d love to ride my bike to Alaska. And as far as I’m concerned there’s only one way to get there, via the Alaskan Highway. The highway is 1,390 miles (2,237 Km) long stretching from Dawson Creek, British Columbia to Delta Junction, Alaska.

Proposals for the highway’s construction were given in the 1920s when an investor thought it would be beneficial to build a ‘super-road’ linking the United States, Canada, and Russia. Yet in order for the idea to take root, Canada, where the majority of the roadway would lie, would have to be very supportive of its construction; they were not. It wasn’t until the attack of Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the later Japanese invasion of Alaska, that the idea was approved by U.S. Congress and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Canada approved of the highway as long as it along with all roadside assets were turned over to the Canadians after the war.

Many bridges were simple, makeshift woodem designs
made by hand from the surrounding forests.

The majority of the highway’s construction was done by the U.S. Army. 11,000 soldiers along with 7,500 civilians were put to the task of building the shortest road to Alaska that, at the very least, could be used to transport military equipment. Two crews started from each end point and worked their way to the middle. It’s actually quite remarkable that the two teams met without global positioning satellites (GPS) been launched yet.

The most difficult setback in creating the road came not from subarctic temperatures, but from the Earth itself. In the summer, the ground underneath the quickly thinning permafrost was filling with water and becoming increasingly unstable. When this top layer was removed in order to lay the road the soil turned into quicksand, sucking bulldozers and other heavy machinery with it.

Did you know?- On September 24, 1942 crews from both directions met at Mile 588 at what became named Contact Creek.

This will be me someday…

Monday, February 8, 2010

Dragon Ball Z

My imagination as a child was overwhelmingly powerful. And I mean that in the most literal way because it often created problems in trying to live out a normal life. When I was a kid who you could lock in a room for 24 hours and not here me wine one bit; I already had everything I needed to entertain myself right inside my head. Most attractive to my imagination were the recent release of Japanese animation shows, or ‘manga’ series. When Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh exploded onto the scene in the mid-90s, there was no turning back for my generation. And while I know doubt collected my fair share or trading cards, the majority of these shows lost their appeal as I matured. Still, there was one cartoon that always stuck with me; the one that was and still is the undisputed best manga series of all time.

(From lef to right): Tien, Trunks, Goku, Krillin, Vegeta, and Piccolo


Yeah…Dragon Ball Z was the shiz! And just to be clear, while I truly enjoyed Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z was the first of the series to be broadcasted on Cartoon Network’s Toonami cartoon block.

We have one man to thank for this show’s creation and his name is Akira Toriyama. His amazing work has inspired countless other artists such as Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto and One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda for the plot of their shows. Both artists have stated that Son Goku, Dragon Ball Z’s main character, inspired their series' main protagonists as well series structure.

(From back to front): Goku normal, Super Saiyan, 'Ascended' Super Saiyan, and Super Saiyan x 3  The halo just signifies that Goku is dead in this picture.

Did you know?- In a survey completed by 1,000 people in 2007, Goku ranked first as the “Strongest Manga Character of All Time.”

For more information on the show’s creation, cool merchandise and polls, visit

While I take the series’ story line to heart, I realize how silly the show really is. Recently a channel on YouTube made a parody of the series that is absolutely hilarious. You can watch the first episode, of ten, below which follow through Vegeta’s arrival on Earth, or you can skip that to see a sneak peek at the Planet Namek series at

I want to know…Who’s your favorite DBZ character and attack that he/she possesses? Leave a comment below.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Aurora UFO Conspiracy

While some may argue the Nessie’s existence has little credibility, the case is not the smoking gun in proving the existence of the weird. The most controversial of mythical occurrences are undoubtedly UFOs (unidentified flying objects). Now, there’s no way I can legitimately prove the presence of extraterrestrials on Earth, and trying to answer that question frankly don’t interest me, but there is one story that intrigues me. And it perhaps contains the biggest proof anyone could ever need, the body of a dead alien.

Aurora, Texas is a small rural town with a population of only 293. The event in question took place on April 17, 1897. That morning a cigar-shaped flying object supposedly struck the windmill belonging to a Judge J.S. Proctor. Two days later, an article appeared in the Dallas Morning News written by Aurora’s own S.E. Haydon. He wrote Judge Proctor said that when he went to examine the wreckage, the craft’s pilot was lying dead amongst the rubble. He described the pilot as “not of this world”. An army officer from nearby Fort Worth reported the creature to be a “Martian” as well. Apparently the alien was given a Christian burial in the local cemetery, which today contains a Texas Historical Commission marker describing the incident.

Did you know?- What makes this account so interesting is that people describe a flying objects seven years before the Wright brothers made history at Kitty Hawk.

Purportedly, the wreckage was dumped into a well located under the damaged windmill. When a man by the name of Mr. Brawley Oates purchased the judge’s property in 1945, he cleaned out the debris from the well in order to use the water. He was only later to develop a severe case of arthritis which Mr. Oates blamed on the contaminated well water. In 1957, he sealed up the well with a concrete slab and placed an outbuilding around it. Since then no one has been given authority to examine the well’s contents or exhume the alien’s body.

The supposed encounter has been a feature on a few UFO documentaries; even investigated by the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON). The organization uncovered two new witnesses in a 1973 study who said they saw the crash. Mary Evans, who was 15 at the time, talked of how her parents went to the crash site while she was forced to stay home. They would later return with talk about the deceased pilot. Charlie Stephens, who was 10, said he saw the airship trailing smoke as it headed north toward Aurora. While he wanted to see what happened, his father made him finish his chores on their local farm.

MUFON also stumbled across a piece of metal which was later found to be comprised of 95% aluminum and 5% iron. It turns out that this combination of metals is very rare, especially a lack of zinc which usually accompanies iron. Further research found the metal to have been air-cooled on the ground. MUFON concluded that the “the sample could not be of terrestrial nature.”


I want to know…Do you believe aliens are already here on Earth? If so, what do you think their mission is? Leave a comment below.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Woodsman Competitions

Nowadays, if you’re good at something, the chance to showcase your talent is pretty good. It doesn’t matter if you participate in the national fry-cook games or play video games for a living, you can glut your stuff in front of people who are actually interested in what you do. And lumberjacks are no different. Sure they’re a dying breed, but their traditions of hard work and good-old brute force are still alive in the woodsman of today.

Woodsman competitions like many professional sports started from contests made by workers in the industry; in this case bored loggers at milling camps. As they were paid more for performing tasks more quickly or with higher precision, all of the competitions were based on speed.

Large games have up to fifteen different events; I made it a point to describe three of my favorite categories for you below:

Horizontal (Underhand) Chop

This is an axe event where one cuts a bolt of wood set horizontally. The axer stands on top of the log until while chopping until it breaks.

Log Rolling (Birling)

Competitors stand on a log, rolling it with their feet for a set amount of time until someone falls off. If both remain standing when the time limit is reached, the contestants switch to consecutively smaller logs until a winner is declared.

Pole Climbing

Participants must climb to the top of a 60-90 foot tall, cedar pole and ring a bell. On the descent, they must touch the pole every 15 inches, or every marked section. The pole is typically the diameter of a telephone pole as the climber wears arborist’s spikes to climb.

I don’t recommend trying anything involving sharp objects of heights, but birling is an excellent game to break out when you’re bored in the summer. You can view the United States Logrolling Association official contest rules by clicking here, so you can organize little competitions for yourselves.

Did you know?- The Lumberjack World Championship located in Hayward, WI contains 21 events and awards up to $50,000 in prize money!

I want to know...If you were a lumberjack what would your name be? For some reason the name 'Al' keeps popping up in my head. Leave a comment below.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Tightrope Walking

I was never a big fan of the circus. I think I’ve only been to a couple shows that were the whole shebang-a-bang. I never looked forward to the clowns, lion taming, or the bears on the unicycles. And as far as the trapeze artists were concerned, when you’re so far away that you can’t even see the swings, the whole scene appears a bit odd. But there is one circus feat I would love to try someday; risking my life with a walk on a tightrope.

The art of tightrope walking (or funambulism if you want to get fancy) is attempting to traverse along a thin wire or rope suspended at great height. Some performers may choose to use balancing poles and even perform without a safety net for added effect.

A new twist on this old sport is called slacklining. Instead of a highly taught steel wire, performers use nylon webbing stretched between two anchor points. Being made from nylon, the rope is very flexible reacting greatly to the slightest disturbance.

Did you know?- The highest slackline walked on record was by Christian Schou in 2006 at 1,000 meters (3,281 feet) high. It was later repeated by Aleksander Mork in 2007.

In an attempt to help you respect the intelligence of these brave souls, here’s a bit of science to understand how difficult it is to master the physics of tightrope walking. We all know that some performers use a pole for added balance. The main advantage of the pole is that it moves your center of mass (COM) outwards, away from the pivot point. This reduces angular acceleration because your COM is now swinging through a larger arc; i.e. it takes longer to create the same angle. This reduces tipping tendency and also gives the walker more strength to correct any mistakes.

Probably the most famous of highwire walkers to Americans like me would be Philippe Petit, the Frenchman who walked between the two World Trade centers in New York City in 1974. You can watch the official trailer below for the documentary that follows how a team of adventurists pulled off this insane stunt in the hit movie, Man on Wire.

While learning how to walk a tightrope can be dangerous, slacklining is a fun and safer way to start out. If you would like to give it a try, visit to see there premier slackline kit or visit to choose from their multiple performance sets (If you have problems deciding which kit is best for you, click here for a product comparison guide).