C. Keith Ray

C. Keith Ray is developing software for Sizeography and Upstart Technology. He writes code for multiple platforms and languages, including iOS® and Macintosh®.
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Thursday, June 2, 2011

What part of the brain calculates how a whip works?

Imagine a whip, in which each centimeter of the whip contains a data processor node, that calculates the position of the node in 3d space, the acceleration and velocity of the node in 3d space, the relative angle between this node and the next node, and the strength and angle of the pull on this node from the previous node, and so on.

Imagine each of these nodes gathering gigabytes of data, as a talented master of the whip, whose only control of this leather string of nodes comes from the handle in his hand, waves and curls the whip in the air, to snap it with precision, the tip exceeding the speed of sound, to clip a playing card or other some other target.

How much could we learn from examining and processing that data? What equations could we derive?

No doubt simulating this activity would take bank of CPUs some time to crank through the numbers. Far more time than the real-time action that took place.

How does a man do it? Practice, of course. And the more esoteric calculations are done in parts of our brain that are not subject to conscious reasoning. The parts that can predict the not-entirely parabolic path of ball thrown in baseball or football.

Would it not be interesting if the simulation of a whip could be repurposed to predict movements in currency-trading, stocks and bonds, real-estate prices, national economies?

In some limited situations the number of variables might not be that different. The forces and effects, velocity and acceration and position, could have analogs in this financial world.

How would a whip-weilder of finance practice? How would he get feedback? Could it be visible enough and fast enough to allow the esoteric calculating parts of his brain reliably direct his (financially metaphoric) hand?


  1. Nit: I read an article somewhere about how it is we can catch baseballs. The article claimed that we don't do anything you could call calculating its path. Rather, it involves moving to align our eyes, hand, the ball, and the background in certain clichéd ways. Unfortunately, I forget the details.

  2. Science has explained it. We're doing Bayesian math - prediction vs experience.


    It also explains why you can't tickle yourself.