Wolfram Blog
Jenna Giuffrida

Ready, Set… Bike! (to Work) — A Data-Fueled Ride for National Bike Month

May 5, 2015 — Jenna Giuffrida, Content Administrator, Technical Communications and Strategy Group

Everyone remembers their first bike, the scrapes and scars, the hard-earned road rash from learning to ride. Riding a bike is the only skill you never forget (or so the saying tells us), but if you’re feeling a little rusty, we know a great way to get reacquainted.

Every May since 1956, the League of American Bicyclists has sponsored National Bike Month to highlight the health benefits of bicycling and inspire more people to give it a try. Communities across the country celebrate two-wheeled glory in various ways; among the many events on Champaign-Urbana’s Bike Month calendar is Bike to Work (BTW) Day on May 14.

Wolfram supports our local BTW Day by providing refreshments at a designated refueling station on State street. Additionally, whether you’re biking to work in CU or elsewhere, we would like to fully prep any intrepid cyclists planning to embark on such a journey by pulling together some vital information.

Say one of our developers was spending time in Dodds Park before coming to work at Wolfram Research. That distance is about 4.6 miles.

What’s the fastest a person could hope to cover that mileage?

Using Wolfram|Alpha to determine fastest bike speed on record

Yikes! That might be a little too ambitious. Let’s settle for a more reasonable 15 mph.

Using Wolfram|Alpha to determine how long it will take to bike at 15 mph

What if that commute was made even more challenging (obnoxious) by being all uphill? Champaign doesn’t have many hills to speak of, but our developer Mariusz Jankowski deals with them all the time on his 11-mile bicycle commute in Portland. Mariusz has done some pretty cool Wolfram Language computations with the GPS data he’s gathered. For our purposes, a mere 5% incline is enough to more than double the calories our adventuring developer is burning!

Using Wolfram|Alpha to determine how long to bike at 5% incline

All right, that’s all good to know, but what if she had to do all this for an entire day on Jupiter? The bright side is that it would be awesome training for a Lost in Space sequel.

Using Wolfram|Alpha to determine calories burned biking on Jupiter

All joking aside, this much cycling needs fuel. How many almonds would she need to eat to power this Jovian trip?

Using Wolfram|Alpha to determine amount of almonds needed for biking on Jupiter

Almonds aren’t very satisfactory, but everyone loves burritos!

Using Wolfram|Alpha to determine the number of burritos needed for biking on Jupiter

There you have it, burritos are clearly the way to go when biking to work on Jupiter.

Gee, that escalated quickly.

If you’re more Earth-based, you may be in need of maps or geolocation services for your trip, or maybe you need to know if your outdoor commute will be long enough for you to sunburn. Check out Stephen Wolfram’s blog post on Apple Watch apps to find out how to track that information!

In the meantime, be sure to look for our station when you begin your own interplanetary, trans-dimensional journey to health and recreation!

Posted in: Wolfram|Alpha
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One Comment


Phil Earnhardt

When you’ve got a hammer, all the world looks like a nail. This article presumes a nice tidy linear relationship between calories consumed and calories expended that can be calculated with a computing engine. Not so! The premise, typically called a calorie Is a calorie, has been soundly trounced by science. All sorts of misconceptions of diet, nutrition, and exercise are rooted in this tragic misapplication of the laws of thermodynamics.

The paper, “‘A calorie is a calorie’ violates the second law of thermodynamics” (2004; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC506782/pdf/1475-2891-3-9.pdf ) provides a general discussion of the topic. For his book “The Calorie Myth”, Jonathan Bailor located hundreds of science papers addressing our misconceptions of diet and exercise: http://pages.sanesolution.com/bibliography/ . LCHF diets also have a huge neurological advantage. BoHB (a ketone body) appears to be the preferred nutrient of our mitochondria. It generates far less ROS — the teeny tiny bullets of molecular mayhem. There’s even discussion in the literature that LCHF diets may make us smarter.

Thanks to Wolfram Research and all the businesses that support National Bike Month.

Posted by Phil Earnhardt    May 5, 2015 at 7:18 pm


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