How do high-wire artists balance on such a thin wire? Why do they carry such long poles?
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The folks at Newton's Apple wrote the following!
High wire's roots are as old as ancient Egypt and first century China, where the art of "rope dancing" was performed over knives. In the 1850s, Jean Francois Gravelet received world acclaim for cooking and eating an omelette (complete with stove and neatly set table) on a high wire stretched over Niagara Falls.
funambulism have evolved. Slack wire, where the rope or wire hangs a bit loose, is popular for juggling, clowning, and sword fights. Sloped wires are attached to the ground at one end and to a pole at the other, creating an angle of about 40 degrees. The most popular of all is the high-wire act, where a taut, springy wire is used to launch dizzying acrobatic tricks and phenomenal feats of balancing.
Three different types of
center of mass is not directly above the wire, gravity will cause the performer to begin to rotate about the wire. If this is not corrected, the performer will fall.
One way to view the high-wire act is to see the wire as an axis and the center of mass of the performer as having the potential to rotate about the axis. If the
rotational inertia of the artist, which allows more time to move his or her center of mass back to the desired position directly over the wire. This effect can be magnified by making the pole as long as possible and by weighting its ends.
The artist often carries a balancing pole that may be as long as 12 meters (39 feet) and weighs up to 14 kilograms (31 pounds). This pole increases the
The pole also helps balance the funambulist by lowering the center of gravity. High-wire artists use drooping, rather than rigid, balance poles. It's possible, in fact, to have such heavy weights attached to the ends of a long, drooping pole that the center of gravity of the performer/pole system is below the wire. In this case, the performer would require no more sense of balance than a person hanging from the wire.
mechanics to safely develop routines. Although a high-wire performance may seem like a combination of courage and magic, remember that there's a lot of work and good, old-fashioned physics thrown into the balance as well!
Acrobats train for years and use
1. Encyclopedia Britannica: Circus! Videotape. (800) 621-3900.
1. Circus World Museum
426 Water Street
Baraboo, WI 53913-2597