Monday, September 30, 2013

Not-so-blurred vision

The other day I saw an interesting science- (and business-) related post about how Mercedes is equipping its latest models with something like active suspension: the car senses the road immediately ahead of it and adjusts accordingly. That's interesting in itself, but the story noted that Mercedes' ad campaign centered on how this was modeled on the way a chicken's vision works. The idea is that instead of simply "interpreting out" the chicken's movement from what it sees, the brain instead tells the bird's neck muscles to keep the head completely stationary.

This all came back to me this morning as I was dodging other pedestrians in the North Point train station. Despite my shucking, jiving and waiting for people to cram onto an escalator, my vision was clear. But my head was definitely moving. Our brains are big and complicated enough to not only do important things like invent sliced bread, but filter out our body's movements. That's one reason why you can play sports (and do other active things) without becoming horribly disoriented. Compare that to video shot from a head mounted camera, which obviously does not have the benefit of cranial editing. It can be vertiginous:

So in theory, if you put a chicken in a downhill bike race, the resulting footage would be much smoother. Also, you would have taught a chicken to ride a bike, which is a much bigger achievement, I'd say.

Anyway. Really not much more than a random though about how everyday activities are much more complicated than we give them credit for. And it's impressive that we can think about these things while walking, running, or even bobbing our heads to music.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Schrodinger's baseball

Oh, hello, Readers of the Blog. It has, once again, been a while. This time is mostly because I was out of town on a thoroughly incredible vacation to Bali. I mean, I suppose I could have written a post or two while lounging next to this...

Making a splash in the jungle.

... but wouldn't I be better off just, you know, swimming? Yes. Yes, I would.

As I told Mrs. Blog, I had that old Eddie Money song stuck in my head toward the end of the trip. But unfortunately, the two tickets to paradise were round-trip, not one way. So I'm back now.

And, it turns out, I have missed a few things. Several Friends of the Blog have pointed out that the Kansas City Royals, who for years have existed basically to provide a reason to go sit outside and eat hot dogs in the summer, are now suddenly contenders. I am happy about this.

"Nice job. Nice job. Nice job. Nice job. Nice job."

I can't help but wonder whether there is some weird karmic correlation here, where the farther I get from K.C. the better the Royals do. Does simply checking the standings and noticing "Hey, they have stopped being terrible!" ruin their play? Is it like talking to a [REDACTED] in the eighth inning of a [REDACTED]?

The answer is almost certainly "no." And after all, I have already observed the cat--I mean, the baseball standings--so the observational damage is done. All that's left now is to enjoy the ride... and, I hope, the playoffs.