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Posts Tagged ‘play

“Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment”*…

 

We’ve all heard it before: There’s no time like the present. Broadly speaking, of course, it means to “seize the opportunity right now,” or maybe in my case, to avoid procrastinating. From a psychological perspective, this makes a lot of sense. As humans we experience time “passing,” and there is a special quality to the present moment. Hypnosis and dreams aside, there is no way to directly experience either the past or the future in the same way we experience the present. But is the aphorism true? Does modern physics actually tell us that there’s no time like the present?

Our best current physical theory of space and time is general relativity. Prior to Einstein’s revolution over a century ago, physics considered time to be an “external parameter”—an independent, fundamental feature of reality not influenced by any other factor in the universe. Whether or not the passage of time is real or illusory (this is an age-old philosophical debate that predates Einstein and is indeed not settled by his theory), we now know that time intervals are not external or universally determined. Time is an internal component of a physical system, a dimension intertwined with three spatial dimensions. Taken together, this is “spacetime,” and is influenced by varying factors and is influenced by varying factors, including speed (relative to other observers or systems) and gravitational forces. Because the theory of relativity posits the constancy of the speed of light for all observers (even if they are moving relative to each other), spacetime itself must dilate and the concept of a time interval becomes elastic.

As a result, there is no universal notion of the present that applies equally to all observers. What looks present to me could just as easily be in someone else’s future, and in a third person’s past. Simultaneity is relative…

Think there’s no time like the present? As Mark Shumelda suggests, modern physics begs to differ: “Actually, There Is a Time Like the Present.”

* Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

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As we cogitate on carpe diem, we might send playful birthday greetings to Johan Huizinga; he was born on this date in 1872.  A Dutch historian and one of the founders of modern cultural history, he is probably best remembered for his 1938 book Homo Ludens, in which he argues for the importance of the play element of culture and society, suggesting that play is primary to and a necessary (though not sufficient) condition of the generation of culture.

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Written by LW

December 7, 2017 at 1:01 am

“To the art of working well a civilized race would add the art of playing well”*…

 

The results of a “play census” of Cleveland children taken on June 23, 1913, disturbed Harvard education professor George E. Johnson. “Of the 7358 children reported to have been playing,” Johnson wrote in a 1915 report on the state of children’s play in the city:

… 3171 were reported to have been playing by doing some of the following things: fighting, teasing, pitching pennies, shooting craps, stealing apples, ‘roughing a peddler,’ chasing chickens, tying cans to a dog, etc., but most of them were reported to have been ‘just fooling’ — not playing anything in particular.

We now fret over children’s overscheduled, oversupervised lives, but Johnson was convinced that what the children of Cleveland needed was more adult influence, not less. His fascinating report paints what he meant to be a dark picture of a city full of kids running wild: playing in the street, going to the movies when they pleased, and putting together loose groups for games of “scrub baseball”…

The redoubtable Rebecca Onion puts the debate over “helicopter” and “tiger” parenting into historical perspective in “Are free range kids really a good idea?

* George Santayana

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As we conclude that surely there’s a middle path (and that we’ll get around to trying to find it after we finish playing), we might recall that it was on this date in 1927, in Yankee Stadium that boxers Jack Dempsey and Jack Sharkey squared off…

Dempsey’s last bout had been been a devastating decision loss to Gene Tunney in 1926 – his first competitive bout in three years and the last in which he wore the heavyweight championship belt. Feeling robbed after “the long count” and hungry to regain his championship status, Dempsey went into training to face future champion Jack Sharkey. The winner would face Tunney.

The bout did not go well for Dempsey, who by ‘27 was a shadow of his former glory. The Manassa Mauler was beaten soundly both from the outside (row 1, gif 1) and inside (row 1, gif 2 and row 2, gif 1). By the fifth round, Dempsey was sporting two cuts – one over his right eye, one under his left – and a bloody nose and mouth. Always a warrior, Dempsey refused to deviate from his game plan, locking himself into the clinch or half-clinch and delivering blows to Sharkey’s abdomen all the while Sharkey was cracking his head open.

In the sixth round, some of these blows started to go one or two inches south of the belt line – a foul that, in Dempsey’s heyday, was to be ignored (similarly, clinching is actually listed as a foul under the Marquess of Queensberry rules, but it has evolved as part of modern boxing, and fouls are very seldom called for holding). The referee warned Dempsey once in that round and again in the seventh, but when Dempsey landed another, Sharkey, who had had enough, deviated from the cardinal rule (“protect yourself at all times”) and turned his head to complain to the referee. Seeing his opponent open, Dempsey landed a short left hook to Sharkey’s jaw. Sharkey crumpled, blindsided by the unexpected punch and still suffering from Dempsey’s low blow.

The referee, who hadn’t recognized Dempsey’s body shot as low, began the count. Sharkey, clutching at his crotch, couldn’t rise in time. Dempsey had won the bout and a rematch with Tunney. Controversy abounded.

For his part, Dempsey was dismissive. “It’s all in the game,” he would later say. “What was I supposed to do, write him a letter?”

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Written by LW

July 21, 2016 at 1:01 am

“A subtractive 3D printer”…

If you are a fan of the Sci-Fi genre of the robot apocalypses you may well not want to give a robot a chainsaw to wield. If, on the other hand, you are a creative artist then it seems well worth the risk…

In this case the robot is a standard industrial arm with an electric chainsaw mounted where the gripper would normally go. There is no doubt that a gas driven chainsaw would be far more threatening but even so, when the software starts it up you really hope that humans are well out of reach…

Read the full story– and learn what the robot “carved”– at I Programmer.

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As we brush up on Asimov’s Three Laws, we might spare a thought for Johan Huizinga.   A Dutch historian considered one of the fathers of cultural history, Huizinga was the leading theoretician of play (e.g., Homo Ludens. Versuch einer Bestimmung des Spielelements der Kultur (1939), translated as Homo Ludens, a study of the play element in culture).  He was interned by the Nazi occupiers of Holland, of whose policies and practices he had spoken and written critically since the 30s.  Huizinga died in detention on this date in 1945.

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Written by LW

February 1, 2013 at 1:01 am

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