Monday, January 26, 2009

Speed and Perception

Byron Fergusson is an archer of great skill. He shoots something like 40000 arrows a year, and is able to pick an aspirin out of the air with an arrow fired from a 75 pound pull recurve bow.

The target he's sighting at is thrown by someone, against a backdrop (so there is contrast helping him). However, it's still smaller than the end of the thing he's launching. It is truly uncanny.

I've read that the way he describes the shot is a BIG mindgame. He sees the shot from the arrow's point of view, in his head. He tries to become the arrow, as it is fired. It's pretty zen for someone that was not raised in that tradition. He described looking at the aspirin and seeing it as more volley ball sized, and thus easier to hit.

Think about that for a sec: This guy is forcing his mind into a hallucination in order to allow his body to make a near-impossible shot.

I wonder if we do the same with the sensation of speed in a car?

I've described before the slowness of speed. When you have plenty of time to do anything you need to, as if a half second lasts many times longer. It's just a matter of fooling your mind and body into doing what needs to get done in a very short time.

Mostly, we are not used to speed. Back in the old days, folks thought that going 60 mph would rip the skin off your face. A 30 mph train was FAST. As we've advanced, we have grown used to 60 mph, and most folks feel comfortable enough to talk on the phone or even eat, put on makeup, and so forth. Now, 120 mph feels fast to most folks, and in the future I'm sure that bar will move ever onwards.

Race drivers are a step beyond that. I believe that they are slowing down their perception of time in order to cope with the events around them.

I can also say it's pretty cool.

So Byron Fergusson sees an aspirin the size of a volley ball, and we see a 100 mph turn evolve in slow motion. I rest when I hit the straightaway, and I enter that straight at over 100. At the end, I'm 150 or so, and finishing checking the instruments, tightening my harness, flexing my hands, and settling in my seat for the next turn. It's leisurely, at least now.

It's amazing what your mind is capable of, when you train it.


Post a Comment

<< Home