atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#3637: So I was driving home last night.

And as I was coming down the ramp connecting the end of I-355 with I-80, something lurched from the grassy strip to my left and ran in front of the Jeep.

I emitted this dismayed sound I can only characterize as "Duwww...." and stepped on the brakes. After missing the critter I analyzed my reaction.

What was most cool about it was how my brain and reflexes worked. The instant I saw the thing, stuff started happening. Part of my brain began analyzing the thing's gait and its motion, as well as its color and shape, to determine what it was. At the same time that was going on, the part of my mind devoted to solving the differential equations of motion sprung into gear, working out how hard I had to brake to avoid hitting the creature without losing control of the Jeep.

My right foot applied enough pressure to the brake pedal that perhaps half the Jeep's braking authority was in use. The first analysis of the relative motions of the two bodies (Jeep and...thingy) came out badly for the creature. (Deer? No. Identification pending.) I reflexively applied more brake and the second approximation began just as the ID report came back: coyote. By the time my brain had finished retrieving data on coyote the creature was clear of my lane and the third approximation interrupted the second, coming back with all clear!

All of this took perhaps half a second, maybe a smidge more, and all of it was 100% automatic. It's neat how the two processes--trajectory analysis and target identification--were independent of each other and simultaneous.

But if you think about it, the human male brain is optimized for those two tasks, particularly the solving of the differential equations of motion in real time. We spent a lot more time as hunter-gatherers than we've spent in agricultural civilization.

If you think about it, that's why we have sports, why we idolize top athletes. The skills used by an NFL quarterback are exactly the skills used by a primitive hunter: acquire target, throw projectile to hit it. The most popular games all hinge on how well people can make inanimate objects go where they want them to; using tools (baseball bat, golf club) are handicaps as well as force multipliers and echo other primitive force multipliers like the atlatl.

* * *

I don't know that I've ever seen a coyote before, certainly not outside of captivity. That one was very nearly an ex-coyote. I'm glad I didn't hit it; that would have messed up my truck.

The new shock absorbers have gotten run in a bit, and the Jeep feels solid as a rock now. Driving on the expressway at 70 MPH is a completely different experience now; where it felt okay before, now it's a pleasure. (New tires will improve that even more, because they'll be balanced and have better grip.)

* * *

Sandra Fluke draws a crowd! ...of seven. "Proof positive it’s much easier to manufacture a controversy in the media than it is to manufacture a rally audience to match."


* * *

* * *

...who knew Windows Vista incorporated a time-travel module?

I want to know what this machine was doing on May 5, 1972....

But, hey! At least there were no errors!

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