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Francis GaltonOne of the more fascinating vignettes in The Art of Travel is "how to load men and cattle so as to obtain the greatest amount of labour". If they carry a light weight they can go great distances, but if they carry too heavy a weight, they can go no distance at all. What's the optimum load so as to obtain the greatest useful effort?

The answer according to Galton is simple and has wide applicability. "It is equally true for men, animals or machines and wholly independent of the way in which power is supplied."

(Carrying or drawing, rowing, or winding with a tread mill) let b be the maximum load a person can hold without moving at all. Let d be the maximum distance he could travel if unloaded. L the optimum load is 4/9 of b. And the distance he can travel OP with that optimum load is 1/3 of d.

For example, if he is brought to a standstill with a load of 270 pounds, and can walk 33 miles without any weight, the optimum weight to carry is 120 pounds and he would be able to carry it 11 miles. To find the maximum load a person can hold without moving an intermediate equation for any L and OP can be used. l d x d = b ( d- op) ( d - op) can be used. For example, if a man is able to walk 10 miles with a load of 130 pounds and 33 miles when he carries nothing, the the standstill weight will be 267.

This problem and situation has wide applicability to life and markets. For example, when considering an investment, the margin might substitute for L the standstill load and r the return for the distance he could travel if carrying no load. The problem also seems to cover the amount of vig one can take on. Or the selling price relative to the cost for a manufacturing process. How could this equation be made useful in a world of randomness, and what applicability to markets and life do you find? This is just one of a hundred ingenious and suggestive passages that I am finding in The Art of Travel that set the mind spinning.

Sushil Kedia comments:

 During my Post-graduation days when I used to take a 4 hour long journey each side from the Institute to my home-town every weekend by train, I rummaged much on this thought.

A huge army of porters in their red and white uniforms at each of the railway platforms would seem to be gliding effortlessly ahead with loads that seemed always Herculean. Is it sheer practice, raw muscle power or a specific skill I wondered for many of these journeys.

Then an idea struck why the larger bags are being stretched along the back and the porters invariably lean forward or why would they be hanging a largish bag on one arm while holding a bunch of three heavy bags atop their skull?

Center of Gravity is what their acquired skill could adjust well. The amount of friction and the pressure on the muscles is a function of the gravitational pull of the load being borne.

I am trying hinting that indeed with skill and practice, the amount of Optimal Load can change across the cross section of similar other variables.

In life, I received a counsel from an uncle in later years, that the weight of relationships is managed only by adjusting the center of gravity and not by acquiring a handle or level of strength greater than others involved.

Similarly in markets, the expanse of risk in your different holdings when balanced appropriately to align the center of gravity through the body of your finances will let you achieve a greater productive leverage.


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