Yesterday while riding my bike I took a fall. I was on mile 8 of the journey and it just happened. What was really cool about it was the slowing down of time and the intense focus on the different aspects of the fall.
I first noticed the tire really close to the edge of the sidewalk and thought I should correct that… then I over corrected and started to fall.
My eyes did a close up focus on the tire, I saw the wheel start to slow down and I was amazed at how slow it was going. I then looked to my left and saw the ground was just hanging there out of my reach but I was getting closer to it so slowly.
This reminds me of Douglas Adams suggestion on how to fly – He says there’s a trick to it: throw yourself at the ground and miss. He suggests you do this by getting distracted at the last moment by a bowl of petunias, a long lost satchel or a pink towel…and boom you might be flying…. this sadly did not happen to me, I just hit the ground.
But the entire process happened to my senses in slow motion. Even the scraping of my arm along the sidewalk, though painful, seemed to take an eternity.
So I began to wonder why that happened, and thought back to a car accident I had been in in 89 or 90 and how that too seemed to happen in slow motion (I wasn’t the driver and walked away mostly unscathed). I found this little article on Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slow_motion_perception and while not a scientific journal I thought it was quite interesting, mostly because if something happens to me and it’s happened to others then I can relate and it’s suddenly relevant… it would have been much more interesting to be flying or discover I had superpowers, but this article will have to do.
Slow motion perception is a subjective perception of time in which things are perceived as passing by slower than the normal perception of time. To a bystander watching a life-threatening situation such as an accident, time is moving at a normal speed. However, to the individual in the accident, time seems to have slowed down. As a result, the individual in the accident may be able to think faster and act faster during these events. However, even though individuals commonly report that time seems to have moved in slow motion during these events, it is unknown whether this is a function of increased time resolution during the event, or, instead, an illusion of remembering an emotionally salient event. Research conducted by David Eagleman has suggested that time does not actually run in slow motion for a person during a life-threatening event, but, rather, it is only a retrospective assessment that brings that person to such a conclusion. To bring this into the realm of scientific study, he measured time perception during free-fall by strapping palm-top computers to subjects’ wrists and having them perform psychophysical experiments as they fall. By measuring their speed of information intake, they concluded that participants do not obtain increased temporal resolution during the fall, but, instead, because their memories are more densely packed during a frightening situation, the event seems to have taken longer only in retrospect
what would be pretty cool is if while in that state of consciousness you realized it and like Tobey Maguire’s enhanced Spider-Man senses in the first set of those movies… we could catch all the items from that tray before they hit the ground… But instead I probably just looked like a flailing idiot at the time.
I think having Saturday Night Live do a skit series where one of their actors plays Neil Degrasse Tyson and uses physics to explain this kind of thing and then end it with “and you basically are just flailing around like the evolutionized chimpanzee you are.” or something… then he could show up and discuss other things that annoy people – like when i’m going leaving an intersection and still catch up to traffic that was doing 45 mph when they passed me “Why does this happen Neil?” we’d ask and he’d go into some long boring explanation of speed and relativity and we’d be all amazed. While he’s talking the camera would catch up to the car in question and we’d see some idiot texting or something instead of paying attention and the Neil could say… “but in this case we just had an idiot”.
I got back on my bike today and rode it to the shop for it’s scheduled tuning… my legs are sore and I can’t grip the handle bar with my right hand (or turn my house key, or a few other important things) but I got the bike there and walked home. I plan to ride it again and I’ll probably take another fall or two before I die some day… but next time I hope someone or something distracts me and I can just fly away