Heisenberg and the Hand-Timed 25 Freestyle
by, October 8th, 2009 at 11:46 PM (2139 Views)
In [ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_mechanics"]quantum mechanics[/ame], the [ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Werner_Heisenberg"]Heisenberg[/ame] uncertainty principle states that certain pairs of physical properties, like position and momentum, cannot both be known to arbitrary precision. That is, the more precisely one property is known, the less precisely the other can be known. When applied to swimming the 25 yard freestyle, especially when such is performed at very high speed, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle suggests that the eyes of observers can be very deceiving indeed. One swimmer may appear to "beat" the other swimmer, sometimes by a full body length. However, because of photon bending quantum effects at very high speeds, appearances are wrong. In such cases, it is critical to go with the respective precison hand chronometers held by qualified teenaged timers.
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In the following film, you will note that I, your narrator, Jim Thornton, am swimming in the end lane. My teammate Mark Cox, known in his youth (which was not very long ago) as a "swimming god", is swimming in one of the other lanes far to my left.
Mark appears to have beaten me by a full body length, at least according to some observers who were evidently duped by a failure to grasp quantum effects at the speed at which I was swimming. Speed at which photons themselves begin to bend and warp and woof and otherwise confuse the eyes like a game of three card Monty dealt by a Cal Tech post-doc.
Take a look for yourselves at this classic "optical illusion":
[ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vt1PQALFD6M"]YouTube - Jimby & Mark C @ 25 Free SCM[/ame]
According to the crack team of high school aged swimmers who had nothing better to do on a Sunday afternoon than hand time us, Mark swam a 12.00 for his 25. I, on the other hand, swam a 11.12.
When converted from short course meters to yards, our times were as follows:
Your time of 0:12.00 in short course meters
converts to 0:10.75 in short course yards
Jim--well, I daresay the word great would be an understatement:
RESULT:In the 55-59 year old age group of the AMYMSA league, I daresay that my
Your time of 0:11.12 in short course meters
converts to 0:09.96 in short course yards
9.96 25 yard freestyle is a record that will never be beat. Ever.
Alas, not everyone is celebrating with me the way I had hoped.
Our swimming coach, the great Bill White, who really should know better, given his study of chemical engineering at the University of Louisville,
did some sort of timing of the YouTube video itself and came up with these two times, which he proceeded to immortalize in a screen capture modes.
Me touching the wall, Bill claiming my time is 13.0
Mark "Swimming God" Cox, top of screen, appearing to beat me by a full body length when quantum Heisenberg effects too difficult for lumpkins to understand are ignored
When Bill emailed us his "evidence" (wait a moment for my choking chortles to die down!), he also wrote:
I went through the 25m video and found out the following using an online
1. Mark's time was pretty much right on. I timed it twice and got 11.9 and
2. Jim's time [his 11.12] was slightly fast. I timed it three times and never got less
than 13 seconds.
I quickly wrote both lads back, trying to explain as best I could in "Quantum Mechanics for Dummies" and "All I Learned about Heisenberg Uncertainty Principles I Learned in Kindergarten" style language, but without wanting to sound patronizing:
I know it is hard for you guys to believe, itís a tiny bit hard for me to believe, too. But I am very confident in my 9.96 25 yard freestyle time, converted from meters, which I think we can all at least agree is so fast as to very probably bend the time-space continuum in mind-altering ways.Yes, it does look like Mark beat me.Yes, it does appear that Billís online stopwatch has unearthed some sort of discrepancy.But once again, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is a powerful force that must be reckoned with, and not in a cavalier, dismissive manner.I have thusly reckoned with it.And after reviewing the play...The ruling on the Field stands. New all-time record: Jim Thornton!!!
Bill, to his credit, quickly conceded:
Here! Here! Jim our majestic time-bending hero! We have much yet to learn from the master so don't count out our Jimby out yet Mark. I do have some questions because I was of the impression that the Jim-particle could not be measured (or in this case) timed) without destroying the sample yet he is still here among us.
And Mark has made sounds along these lines, too, though he seems somewhat less sincere, one almost detects a snifter of "humoring me" here.
Jim congratulations on your record. I don't think anyone thought it would be possible to beat Brad Sluss' 25 fr record of 10.05 set at Erie in 10/08. He is my arch nemesis in the 40-44 age group. He goes to every meet and seems to score a lot of points. If I lose high point this season it will be due to him, so I'm glad to see you took him down a peg. I think
his head was in danger of getting too big anyway.
Are we certain that Mark is really talking about Brad Sluss's oversized head (it is, I will concede, irradiated squash-like in its enormity, but still, methinks he had another swollen gourd in mind with his "congratulations" here.)
I am hoping that somewhere in USMS land there is a person with as much knowledge of physics as me, but who is perhaps not burdened by quite so much genius as it is my sad fate to cart around with me, genius that can make it hard to relate to those of more ordinary, wholesome, enviable, pedestrian intellects.
Could you please help explain to my teammates why they should always trust me and my formulae, and not their own eyes and "beliefs", when it comes to the designation of victory status in our little for-fun competitions?
I would appreciate it.
Final unrelated note:
Soon, the complete unexpurgated two hours of video of me in the Wilderness will begin being serialized in 2-5 minute installments.
With luck, we shall all be freed of it by the first warming lights of springtime!