Body Language – Three’s a Crowd

Or if you prefer; the “Three Body Language”.

Something that has cropped-up several times in recent quite separate correspondences are analogies to the Newtonian “Three-Body-Problem” and I realised these linked to some earlier things I’d blogged about.

The three-body-problem is insoluble analytically – take three or more bodies (physical objects) apply Newtons laws of motion (inlcuding gravitation) to each of them, and you find you can’t solve the resultant set of equations. Not directly anyway; numerical methods and simulation processes can take each object / object-pair progressively and iterate to an overall solution in small time-slices that ultimately predicts their motions. Of course heavenly bodies didn’t have to wait for someone to find that solution – they just got on with orbitting each other, they’re not analytical objects.

And neither are human subjects – analytical objects. Real human car drivers can cope with three or more cars on the road at once, without bumping into each other too often, they can predict and manage their motions giving and reacting to body-language. They don’t stop to solve equations of motion in order to do it. (And of course there is evidence of this from the opposite case. The Dutch road-traffic experiments, repeatedelsewhere, that show that if you take away road-traffic control signs, people have fewer accidents and drive more safely in general – because they have to use body language to negotiate interactions and passing / crossing manoevres. Conversely in places where every intersection has lights and stop signs the humans forget to use body language, trust the signs, and use their freedom from involvement in the process to make better use of their valuable time dealing with their cell-phones, offspring and breakfast, and their cars have more accidents as a result.)

The correspondences were …

One of them, in a private colleague correspondence, was a three-piece band (Drums, bass, guitar say) and how the real rhythms, attack and timings were never as objectively perfect as just two people or one / two people with a drum-machine / click-track – but were less sterile and all the better for it. A rhythm section may be “tight” but music needs that soul and emotion of humans bouncing their body language off one another. Tight like an elastic rubber-band, not tight as in bolted down.

Another, on the Inclusionality Forum, was Ted Lumley talking about “harmony seeking” fluid dynamic behaviour – in response to my “faith in love” – used a freeway driving example (!) and the Newtonian three-body-problem analogy.

And another I can’t pin down at the moment,
Not Zen driving … anyway …

More related to the earlier boiled frog, but sparked by this line of thought, is the idea that a metaphor in a parallel domain is better than an explicit statement in the real one. If a team is performing well, it’s making music, not following a plan; If musicians are playing well, they’re cooking on gas, not following a score; If you can’t stand the heat (Mr Frog), you can get out of the kitchen (boiling pot); You hum it, I’ll play it; Thereof which we cannot speak, we can’t whistle it either; If you can think of any more, you can let me know …

Post Note … Tom offered this one:

In the days of the Greeks it was thought all could be know about the behaviour of all the particles in the universe.
Then Newton Came along and three bodies was too many.
Then with Einstein relativity made two bodies too complicated a system to understand.
With quantum uncertainty it turns out that even knowing what one thing is doing is impossible.
That is progress.

6 thoughts on “Body Language – Three’s a Crowd”

  1. not Zen driving? Maybe it was Richard solving the three body problem after using his SOB detector?

    Just a thought. Links, connections, analogies.

  2. The reason I asked is that the in the “Zen driving” reference the character in Dirk Gently is called Richard too, I wasn’t sure if you were referring to that.

  3. Oh, I thought “Zen driving” was a reference to Loggins cracking up his Monte Carlo while Zen meditating. Spooky.

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