Thursday, June 27, 2013

Playing Catch

Commenter AWS speculated on the relationship between our  trajectory calculating abilities and math and physics.  I'm not sure that I agree on the details, but it's pretty clear that the trajectory calculation is crucial to our throwing abilities.  A lot of the games humans play are versions of what might be called "playing catch."  We play catch with baseballs and footballs.  In soccer we exchange throwing for kicking, but the same sorts of skills come into play.  Ditto tennis, badminton, golf and so on.  Any sport played with balls, darts, horsehoes or other projectiles involves trajectory calculations.

As noted previously, humans are much better at throwing with accuracy than any other animal.  I'm not sure that anybody has taught chimpanzees to bowl or play tennis, but my guess is that if they have, they aren't very good at it.  Can chimps juggle?  (Apparently not).

Throwing and catching are learned skills, but our aptitude for them suggests that we have a lot of supporting mental hardware.  Those who aren't exposed to throwing games in their youths often "throw like a girl" as the saying goes - a weak motion that fails to exploit the energy storing capabilities of shoulder, back and torso, but that actually has nothing to do with gender, except that girls are less likely to play ball games as children.  Girls with brothers usually learn the characteristic powerful human throwing motion without any special instruction, just by fighting back.  Moms who grew up without learning ball skills can pick up some trajectory calculation skills when their children expect them to catch thrown car keys, candy bars, and other items.