The math and mind behind a shot

Remember in high school or college, or even last week, when a friend or relative would launch into an explanation of some feat of physics, complete with air drawings of formulas.  The entire time he (because males seem to have cornered the market on this behavior) was blissfully unaware of his audience’s comprehension level sinking rapidly to zero. I read an article today in Wired Magazine that will remind you of that time.

When played properly, without the bravado and intimidation and stupidity and selfishness exhibited by 99% of players in the NBA, basketball is a sport of the heart and mind.  In its purest form, it demonstrates that humans have the capacity to see what the eyes cannot, hold and control a ball with just the nerve endings of the fingers, and, with grace, fly and contort the body in ways that defy gravity.  I believe shooting a basket is more art than science, more poetry than prose, but the article goes the distance in tediously explaining the math behind optimizing a shot. Wow, holy take-the-fun-out-of-the-game.  🙂

I found the article very interesting but it made me think this. Good players are students of their sport but it’s extremely unlikely they will analyze it to the degree presented in the article. If they were to do so, they would probably end up flaming out and leaving their beloved sport because of the doubt introduced by over-thinking. When I played, the trajectory of the ball as it left my hands and traveled to the basket varied by angle, defender, shoes, court surface, lighting, and what I ate two hours before. It was the hundreds of hours of practice and the heat and stress of games that enabled me to shoot well.

It was fun to read the math but the truth is, desire and the mind (not the brain) control the entire beautiful act.

Trying to explain speed

You might recall an event that occurred only three weeks ago that some heralded as new physics, an upending of conventional thought, and the introduction to a new world hard to comprehend.  I’m not referring to the Facebook update. I’m referring to CERN’s discovery of neutrinos that measured speeds exceeding the speed of light.  I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post that day but I really did, and do, find it fascinating.  Despite the fact I suspect most of the world has moved on and has already forgotten about those invisible neutrinos, I intend to stay tuned in.

Herewith, this article from Wired today that offers up all kinds of mundane explanations for the speedy neutrinos. Scientists are hard at work seeking reason when only passion is apparent.  We’ll see where this goes.  I’ll keep you posted.  🙂

Creativity as a measure of national wealth

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word creativity? A painter casting a thoughtful eye at a blank canvas? A sculptor picking up a chisel and approaching a large slab of marble?  A fiction writer leaning on his elbow and looking into the distance from his 15th floor window? How about a couple of mid-level staffers in a major bank thinking of a new and unique financial product?  Or, a kid thinking of a new way to exploit the iPhone by building an application?

All these of course are examples of opportunities for creativity and more and more it’s this quality, this free-form thinking that is proving to be the pathway to better qualities of life.  That’s ironic since artists (the gods of creativity, historically) were typically impoverished.  Richard Florida and his team have come up with what they believe is a better measurement for national wealth.  It’s called the Global Creativity Index and it shows some rather surprising results.  Their measurements are of Technology, Talent, and Tolerance and these are the hallmarks of advanced democracies.  This is my interpretation of the data but it’s easy to draw the linkage just by examining the list.  Sweden on top, followed by the U.S., Finland, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, with Canada rounding out the top seven. While we can argue endlessly about a number of shortcomings in each of those countries, it’s hard to dispute that they do a better job than most other countries at producing the right environment for creativity to flourish.  Think about it, if you need to think of something new, don’t you need to feel you’ve been equipped with appropriate education about the subject?  Isn’t it ideal if you have access to technology that improves your ability to tap into external knowledge?  And finally, isn’t the best enabler an environment where you feel safe to be who you are and express how you think without fear?