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Size and Strength

Are you stronger than an ant? Trick question. Of course you are, in absolute terms. But an ant can lift 100 times its weight, and--unless you're a circus strongman--hoisting anything that weighs more than about 70 percent of yourself is a big challenge. In a relative sense, the ant is stronger. In general, strength increases with size, but not in a one-to-one ratio. Scientists say strength doesn't scale up with size.

Galileo's Insight
wld_size_strength

One of the first scientists to write about the lopsided relationship between size and strength was the Italian scientist Galileo Galilei (1564-1642). "I believe," he wrote, "that a little dog might carry on his back two or three dogs of the same size, whereas I doubt if a horse could carry even one horse of its own size."

What's Wrong with this Picture?
wld_gazelle

You probably don't believe the animal on the left could really exist at the same size as the elephant--and you're correct. For one thing, those legs are too thin to support the weight of the imaginary animal--actually a Grant's gazelle scaled up to Indian elephant size.

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