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Old 10-21-2004, 02:35 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Real motion or the illusion of motion

I was contemplating some lights flashing in a circular pattern around a slot machine. The array of lights flashed in sequence up to the top of the machine, across, then back down the other side.

Thing is, the lights don't actually move. The don't do anything but blink. Each light blinks on for a period of time, then blinks off. So my question is this: Is that motion, or is it just the illusion of motion? And how does this relate to other types of motion?
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Old 10-21-2004, 03:21 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Well, it is not motion in the sense that, as you say, nothing is moving. Then again in a water wave the particles only move up and down whilst the wave propogates laterally. It is not un-reasonable to think about this system as a binary transverse wave where the amplitude is either on or off. Of course each light isn't triggering the light next to it to turn on so the analogy can only go so far - there is no energy transfer, which is one of the defining features of a wave.

So, yeah; it's similar to a wave but not exactly the same. I wonder if the pattern could be made to fit the universal wave equation, anyone game to try?
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Old 10-21-2004, 03:37 PM   #3 (permalink)
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It doesn't move, therefore there is no motion...however, it could be considered a wave function...
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Old 10-21-2004, 06:59 PM   #4 (permalink)
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You might be interested in looking up the early work of the gestaltist's specifically Wertheimer if I am correct. They have done a great deal of research on this subject and I have even some fun online tests for this subject.
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Old 10-21-2004, 09:12 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I'm looking it up as we speak. Indeed it is along the lines of what I had in mind when I posed this question: An epistemological argument of the nature of motion, and how our perception of motion relates to the real thing.

More accurately, I want to drive at the realization that there are so many things which we perceive as motion, which actually are not. The wave molloby mentions is a good example. I would contend that there are a myriad of things the mind perceives in this way that are actually illusory, for nothing other than efficiency/simplicity. For it really doesn't matter if the water in a wave is actually moving. If you stand in it, it will take you in the direction it "appears" to be moving.
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Old 10-22-2004, 05:42 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Old 10-22-2004, 12:38 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Now THAT'S the illusion of motion if ever I've seen it!
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Old 10-22-2004, 10:08 PM   #8 (permalink)
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That is just freaky.
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Old 10-23-2004, 08:54 AM   #9 (permalink)
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This is a fundamental problem that I have with science writers (note that I say science writers and not scientist - two different species entirely)

They want to take an observable event in the natural world and define it narrowly, then argue infinitum that something or other doesn't fit in their narrowly defined definition.

I remember attending a lecture by H. Buckminster Fuller. He talked about his childhood education and confronting the concept of a straight line. He asked his teacher for an example. The teacher told him that the light from the sun, just before it dips below the horizon would be an example of a straight line.

Later, Fuller learned that the sun is so far away that it was already below the horizon by time the light reach us on earth. Even later he learned that some aspects of light cause it to behave like particles that bounce around in an average of a straight line, and some aspects of light have it behaving like waves that move up and down in a direction approximating a straight line.

Does this mean that we throw out our definition of a straight line? No, we make it flexible and adapt it to our needs.

I myself have seen lights chasing around a marquee and have no problem describing them as such. I have also done a great deal of study on the influence of alcohol consumption on the perception of such.
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Old 10-23-2004, 12:08 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Very insightful comments, mrdarcy. My stance on this issue is just like my feeling on free will: The illusion of motion is as good as motion itself for most of our purposes.
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Old 10-23-2004, 04:10 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrdarcy
This is a fundamental problem that I have with science writers (note that I say science writers and not scientist - two different species entirely)

They want to take an observable event in the natural world and define it narrowly, then argue infinitum that something or other doesn't fit in their narrowly defined definition.

I think the problem that science writers have is that their targeted audience is usually not knowledgable about the subject. Therefore, the writer usually oversimplifies, throwing away nuance for the sake of clarity. It's the same way with education. In elementary school, we are taught that negative numbers have no square roots. But as we learn more and more about the subject, we can understand more about the complexities. When we reach highschool, we are taught about imaginare and complex numbers. The science writer is like the math teacher in elementary school. They are aware (even they don't necesarily understand) of the complexties in the subject, but must simplify it so that the students aren't overwhelmed.
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Old 10-23-2004, 06:25 PM   #12 (permalink)
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i wish i had enuf motion between my to brain cells to move off this page.......
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Old 10-25-2004, 04:58 AM   #13 (permalink)
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The illusion of motion will have to do; there is no way we can experience motion in anything other than segments blurred together by our mind. Nerves do not fire continuously, so even out thoughts are not continuous (do our minds have a 'clock speed'?).

I would be interested in knowing if Time behaves like other things in quantum mechanics; is there a minimum unit of time?
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Old 10-26-2004, 05:56 PM   #14 (permalink)
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The illusion of motion and the nature of time are strange and way over my head, I get a headache just thinking about it. I guess motion is just a snapshot of stationary objects that when observed over time give the illusion of motion. If you look at a thousand of these sequential snapshots in one second the motion appears to be fast compared to looking at them over a period of a thousand years. And since time is relative to the observer, etc...
I guess time (whatever that is) is the thing that keeps all things from happening at once, LOL.

And like Phage, I wonder if there is a minimum unit of time (digital) or can something like time (or anything for that matter) be truly analog?
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Old 10-30-2004, 03:36 PM   #15 (permalink)
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i'd say that it's an illusion of motion, since nothing is actually moving in the direction that it appears to be.
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Old 11-07-2004, 02:46 AM   #16 (permalink)
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In a scientific sense, I would define motion as velocity. Now, as you know, velocity implies momentum, which can be transfered between objects. So something is actually moving if it can impart momentum to other objects. Stick your hand between two of the lights, and see if you it starts to move when the "motion" of the lights "hits" your hand. Your hand didn't move? Then the light wasn't really moving.

Think of it this way - when you watch TV, people "move" all the time, but they aren't really moving. It's just the pixels on your tv changing colors. It's just a perception of motion.
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Old 11-07-2004, 10:23 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Unfortunately what we are talking about is not so simple. Besides, light does have the ability to push a lot of things around.
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Old 11-07-2004, 06:14 PM   #18 (permalink)
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What I was saying is that velocity implies momentum - I know that light has momentum, but I don't see how that counters my argument.
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