Ultimate Frisbee

Last Saturday I joined a group of children and youth from Luckysummer and Kariobangi for a game of ultimate Frisbee at the Nairobi arboretum. It’s the first competitive game of any kind I have ever participated in. My participation in the game was actually very good to the amazement of many of my friends.

But this post is not about that. It is about what goes in one’s mind to enable them to catch a disc that is at them. For one to catch the disc the brain has to solve complex math problems and it does this in real time and without them knowing it is doing it.

The disc is thrown. You run to catch it. To do this you need to solve some incredibly complex problems. You have to see the disc. You have to recognize it. You then have to combine two different images that are slightly offset from each other in order to calculate where the disc is in three dimensional space. You have to compare several observations of the disc’s position as it changes over time to calculate how fast it is moving. You have to calculate the force of gravity and how it will cause the discs’s path to curve. Then you must compute a path that you can take that will cause you to intersect the discs’s path through space at the time the disc will be arriving in the space you occupy. You must compute how quickly to move your hand and how far, in order to line it hand to intersect with the s discs’s path.

This is hard. It requires real-time computation on an extraordinarily complex level. This complex calculation is done at the same time as you are constantly computing the forces of gravity on your body and the correct counteracting forces of your muscles just to hold you upright. And you must do all these calculations nearly instantly, while constantly monitoring the ball’s flight and adjusting for wind or other disturbances in its flight trajectory.



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