Sunday, November 13, 2016

Non-linearity is a pain in the neck and other smart content of this week

Non-linearity is a pain in the neck

Literally; and I use "literally" literally, not figuratively.

Most of the time we have an implicit linear worldview: if $x$ effort gives you $y$ result, then $(1+\epsilon)x$ effort should give you $(1+\epsilon)y$ result, approximately. And in many cases, where the $\epsilon$ is very small, this tends to be the case.

But the world isn't linear, especially in the gym. Especially in conditioning. (Editor note: conditioning is like cardio, except it actually works because it's high-intensity, short, and paused; that makes it very painful. This is why most people who are happy with no results prefer cardio, which delivers no results with only mild discomfort.)

Along with the basic, more functional conditioning movements (hill sprints, farmer's walks, stair sprints, sandbags), I've been doing medicine ball Atlas stones. Basically, one lifts a medicine ball from between one's feet to a platform above shoulder height (like an Atlas stone), then brings it back to the floor. Like any other conditioning exercise, this needs to be done correctly to avoid injury and not the CrossFit way of "fake it until you break it."

(The real Atlas Stone exercise. Those are not medicine balls.)

Medicine ball Atlas stone lifts have one of the most nonlinear pain response functions in the gym. Basically, for the first 5-10 reps, it feels like nothing is happening; the heart rate raises slowly and the muscles get a little hot. Then, at about 15, you discover muscles that never hurt before; discover them as they start hurting hard and fast. I discovered several new muscles in my neck --- and I regularly train neck as part of the posterior chain.  At 20-25, the ball has become pure neutronium, the platform has relativistically moved up several parsecs, and your blood pressure could drive a nuclear power plant turbine. So you rest 90 seconds, then restart; that's conditioning.

That's non-linearity.

In fact the response function is highly non-linear, not something that could easily be approximated with a low-degree polynomial, so I propose the following model:

Plot of $\mathsf{Pain} \doteq \exp(\exp(\exp( 0.035 \times \mathsf{Reps})))$

One of these days I'll write something serious about the misuse of linearity in everyday thinking; possibly also comment on the use of "exponential" to describe all convex functions and the unprofessionalism of drawing said "exponentials" on slides using the 'draw ellipse segment' tool in PowerPoint instead of plotting the actual function. But that's for another day.

Added Nov 16, 2016: while we wait for that "another day," here's a visual comment on convex functions:

Stephen Wolfram helps popularize science. Real science.

Stephen Wolfram, creator of Mathematica and author of A New Kind Of Science (but don't hold that book against him), helped the producers of the movie Arrival (2016) make less fools of themselves than the usual in scifi movies:
When I watch science fiction movies I have to say I quite often cringe, thinking, “someone’s spent \$100 million on this movie—and yet they’ve made some gratuitous science mistake that could have been fixed in an instant if they’d just asked the right person”.
Part of that is the audience, who says "I love science" but really only likes the image (or at most the idea) of liking science and has no interest in actually learning any. It's like those people who like the idea of getting in shape, but don't exercise or change their unhealthy habits.
Occasionally one can see code. Like there’s a nice shot of rearranging alien “handwriting”, in which one sees a Wolfram Language notebook with rather elegant Wolfram Language code in it. And, yes, those lines of code actually do the transformation that’s in the notebook. It’s real stuff, with real computations being done. (Emphasis added.)
Here's Dr. Wolfram (whose alter ego is Mr. Tungsten --- couldn't resist ðŸ˜€) talking about serious things:

Living in the future is great, never mind those who long for the "good" old times.

I have two words for these who long for the good bad old times: modern dentistry. (Not my original thought, but I've heard it from many sources; don't know original attribution. Still effective at capturing the power of technological change at an emotional level.)

Ai Build's system uses video cameras outfitted with machine learning algorithms to allow robots to learn from their mistakes—meaning they can operate more quickly, correcting for errors on the fly instead of moving slowly to prevent them. According to Cam, Ai Build's arms can print in half the time it would take using standard techniques. (Via Singularity Hub.)

In one of the first medical applications of this concept, Synlogic has patented a version of E. coli engineered to develop “an unquenchable appetite for ammonia” and turn it into the amino acid arginine, which, unlike ammonia, is harmless to the human body. (Via Singularity Hub.)

Media Briefed on New NASA Hurricane Mission

As you can see, NASA is causing all these hurricanes to create a New World Order where scientists will rule and… huh, no. It's just that hurricanes are kind of easier to spot from high above the atmosphere than from the basements where the people who come up with these NASA conspiracies spend their lives.

That's it for this geek-out. Live long and prosper. --JCS

(Mood music.)