There are no straight lines in nature

It turns out we really do walk in circles. A new study published in Current Biology finds that people have difficulty walking in a straight line when cues are not available to guide the way.

The researchers, from the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, observed the walking patterns of the study participants using global positioning software. They had the volunteers walk unfamiliar terrain and found that they all had a tendency to walk in a circle or veer from a straight line.

According to the Associated Press, in one test, two of the participants were told to walk a straight line through the Sahara Desert during the day – both veered slightly from a straight path. Another participant walked through the desert at night and started out going straight; however, when it became cloudy he started to turn and ended up in the same direction in which he began.

A second test took place in the Bienwald forest in Germany with six participants. As soon as the sun disappeared, four ended up walking in circles even though they thought they were going straight. Two others walked when the sun was clearly visible and managed to walk in a reasonably straight line

One theory, according to Reuters, has said that people tend to walk in circles because of differences in leg strength, creating a tendency to move in one direction.

To test this, the researchers had the participants attempt walking a straight line while wearing a blindfold. They found that the same participant would walk in random directions and paths, without a bias toward a particular direction.

Lead researcher, Jan Souman, told Reuters:

“Walking in circles is therefore not caused by differences in leg length or strength, but more likely the result of increasing uncertainty about where straight ahead is.”

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