(Roughly) Daily

Freezing the fugacious…


Performance artists have long felt the urge to record their creations so that they could be shared and performed again as created.  Musical notation dates back (at least) to 2000 BCE (a  cuneiform tablet that was created at Nippur, Sumer); dance notation, to the early 18th century.  But it wasn’t until the early 1980s that jugglers had a way to record and share their moves.

Invented by Paul Klimek in Santa Cruz, California in 1981, Siteswap (as the system is known) was further developed by Bruce “Boppo” Tiemann and Bengt Magnusson at the California Institute of Technology in 1985, and by Mike Day, Colin Wright, and Adam Chalcraft in Cambridge, England in 1985.  (In the U.K., the system is known as “Cambridge Notation.”)

Its simplest form, often called “vanilla siteswap,” charts throws as though one were to watch someone from above as they were juggling while walking forward– an approach sometimes called a “space-time diagram” or “ladder diagram.”


But over the years, the system has gotten more sophisticated, embracing more elaborate representations, like the “state diagrams” (that capture the positions of juggled objects in the air at any point, and allow the deduction of available options for next tosses).


As Slashdot reports,

‘Siteswap has allowed jugglers to share tricks with each other without having to meet in person or film themselves,’ says James Grime, juggling enthusiast and math instructor for Cambridge University. Still unclear on the concept? Spend some time playing around with Paul Klimek’s most-excellent Quantum Juggling simulator, and you too can be a Flying Karamazov Brother!


As we struggle to keep all of our balls in the air, we might recall that it was on this date in 1972 that Tom Stoppard’s Jumpers premiered at the Old Vic in London.  A satire of academic philosophy– likening it to a less-than skilful competitive display of gymnastics and, yes, juggling– the play is set in an alternative future in which British astronauts have landed on the moon… leading to fears that the landing  would ruin the moon as a poetic trope and result in a collapse of moral values.


Michael Hordern as philosopher George Moore (from the playtext cover). Moore is about to loose the arrow and disprove Zeno’s arrow paradox.


Happy Groundhog Day!



Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 2, 2013 at 1:01 am

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