Manchester Science Festival talk

4 November 2014

Sponsored by the local IOP as part of the Manchester Science Festival, Professor Jim Richards of UCLan gave a lecture entitled Biomechanics: Putting the Spring in your Step, on 23 October.

Professor Jim Richards

Biomechanics has a long history (starting with Aristotle) and is concerned with body movement, muscular activity and the forces thereby involved. Early work relied on static, external measurements although in the late 19th century, Muybridge captured the movement of horses and, later, humans.

More significantly, Volta and Galvani discovered that electrical stimulation could provoke muscle contraction. This led to the science of electromyography (EMG), in which electrical signals generated by muscle activity are detected remotely, recorded and analysed. Coupled with external observation, EMG is now a powerful technique for the investigation of musculoskeletal and neurological conditions.

Prof Richards’ particular interest is in the development of biomechanical devices that improve rehabilitation time and reduce the incidence of sports injuries. He demonstrated an adjustable platform designed to help recovery time for foot/ankle problems (e.g. Achilles tendon injuries). He also produced a set of running shoes which contained microsprings whose function is similar to that of shock absorbers in vehicles: the aim is to minimise impact and injury during running.

I knew very little about biomechanics but this talk was highly stimulating not least because of Jim’s obvious enthusiasm for his subject.