Who doesn’t love cheetahs? A young person of my acquaintance went so far as to spend a large portion of her time, at a certain age, cavorting on all fours and yipping and chirping like a cheetah. And of course we all know that cheetahs are the fastest land animals, and that’s how they catch their prey, by outrunning them.
Only that’s wrong.
Yes cheetahs are wicked fast, reaching about 60 miles per hour, but a recent report in Nature has shown, via novel monitoring techniques, that maneuverability and deceleration skills are the keys to successful hunting. The researchers designed a new type of monitoring collar that included GPS and accelerometers. No word on whether the collars also allowed cheetahs to play Words with Friends.
This report highlights the things we can learn as we get better and better at measuring. Conventional wisdom may remain or be turned on its head, and either outcome is fine. The key is that we have a better basis upon which to understand that wisdom, that we don’t take things for granted, that we question our assumptions.
The cheetah collars also point to how we can gather so much more data on individuals, whether furry or bipedal (or both), than we ever could before. I’ve recently been made aware of the quantified self movement (HT @bkolko), and what they hope to do is in line with what was done with these cheetahs. Take individual monitoring and data gathering to new heights. No, it won’t involve tracking collars (unless, you know, that’s your thing). But it will involve using technology to measure what previously we could only guess at, and enable decision making and research in new and powerful ways.