So…last letter. I tried to write cool follow ups. But I think it’s best if I show you this lonnnnnggg, insane, and silly story I wrote quite some time ago.
Warning: there are no headlines. There are no pictures. I’ve written quite a few letters to get to this point, most of which had entertainment within them. If you’ve liked what I’ve written so far, take the time to chomp through this. Make your own pictures in your mind as you read.
A portly alien fellow named Jupe hangs out on Jupiter. By “hangs out,” I mean that Jupiter’s gravity tacks him to the floor. He walks around and functions as if he has a barbell affixed to his spine, and as if his hands and feet were attached to cinder blocks. He moves slowly and clumsily.
Erth is another alien. Unfortunately for Erth, he was born to a lesser alien race. He had a bother named Zeal, but his parents made the unfortunate mistake of sending Zeal to Jupiter. When Zeal stepped out of his zero gravity enabled spaceship and onto the surface of the planet, the gravity of Jupiter exploded his guts on the spot.
After Zeal’s death, the parents did some research. They found out that Earth’s gravity was more tolerable for their kind, so they sent Erth down to do some testing.
Although Earth’s gravity is tolerable to Erth, he’s is in the same boat as Jupe. He’s tacked to the floor. Barbell on the spine, concrete blocks on his hands and his feet. It’s a tough life.
No matter how long Jupe and Erth spend on their respective planets, they’ll always struggle. Their physiology is calibrated upon birth. Like an android. Upgrade only comes via surgery, much like a car. Open the hood, replace old parts with new parts.
Hume is a human that was born on a spaceship in the vacuum of space. He’s a pretty gangly and fragile looking fellow. He is selected by his parents to check out planet Earth. (He’s an only child.)
Upon arriving, Hume is stricken with Earth’s gravity. It’s not forgiving. He’s used to space. Earth is giving him a tougher time than it did Erth. Hume is face down, stapled to the floor.
Erth sees Hume one day and laughs at him.
“Pitiful human,” Erth says. “I feel bad for you being born into such a weak race. I’ll show you mercy and keep you alive.” Erth vanishes to do the work his alien parents sent him to do.
Every day, Hume struggles against the Earth’s gravity. Every day, Hume makes microscopic progress. He’s able to wiggle his fingers. Toes. Then he’s able to slide to his hands and knees. Then he’s able to stand.
Then he’s on par with Erth; he’s mobile, but it’s a struggle. He keeps evolving. Adapting. And Erth crosses Hume’s path months down the line, just as Hume is growing to strength equal to Erth. Erth is shocked to see Hume standing and moving around (albeit slowly).
“How are you able to walk now?” Erth asks.
“I don’t know,” Hume says. “It’s been a slow process, but my strength has grown every day.”
“Hmmm. Well, you’re still a stupid human,” Erth says. “You’ve managed to rise to a power level similar to mine, but there you shall stay. No human can compete with a superior alien race. Now, if you excuse me, I must continue my work.” Erth vanishes once again.
Hume begins the work his parents sent him down to do. As the days go by, Hume moves better. Easier. His hands no longer feel like they’re in concrete. His feet, the same. Then, one day, it no longer feels like he has a barbell on his back.
“I can’t believe this,” Hume thinks to himself. He remembers back to his past encounter with Erth and how it looked. Both of them we’re walking barbarians. They took one giant step at a time, only to have their foot crash to the ground. Only after the foot was planted could they lift the other one to walk. They teeter tottered from side to side on a pivot. Foot after foot.
Things were different for Hume now. He could walk with more grace. And as he thought back to his past, he pondered his developmental ceiling. “Hmmm. When I got here, I could barely wiggle my finger. Now that I can stand and walk a little bit, I wonder if I can squat down?”
So Hume does. It’s tough, but he lives. He squats and squats and then asks himself, “Hmmm. Now that I can move pretty well, I wonder if I can leave the surface of the Earth?”
So Hume tries to jump. He barely gets off the ground, but he does. He continues his training. Soon, he’s jumping higher and higher. He starts leaping from foot to foot, what us earthling’s call sprinting.
“I can actually maneuver without needing both feet planted on the surface of Earth!” Hume says to himself. “I’ve been getting better and better with each passing day. There’s a good chance that, if I keep training, I’ll be jumping higher and higher to the point of jumping all the way back to my parent’s spaceship!”
The days pass. Hume’s abilities grow. Soon he’s running and jumping and hopping and looking very human, from an Earthly perspective. Compared to his ghastly gangling space self that landed on Earth long ago, Hume is much more muscular. And as he jogs to his next commissioned work site, he comes across a village full of Earth born and raised humans. It’s the first time he’s met another human since he’s been on Earth. He’s happy to meet a group of people of his own kin, so he stops and talks. He meets a boy from the village named Albert.
“It’s amazing,” Hume explains, “I’ve gotten better, physically, every day since I’ve been here. I’ve grown muscles! I can’t wait to jump back to my spaceship when my job is finished.”
“I hate to tell you this,” Albert replies, “but you’re not going to jump back to your spaceship. In fact, your abilities as you have them now probably won’t improve all that much more. Same goes for those wonderful muscles you tout.”
“But, how?” Hume says. “I’ve gotten better every day. Why would it stop?”
“You’re getting better because your body is adapting to the stress of gravity,” Albert says. “It’s fine and dandy and wonderful, but gravity is constant. You’ve merely been exploring your movement abilities to their full abilities under the umbrella of this constant.”
Hume looks around at the village of humans. He sees the average muscle tone on the villagers. He sees the plateau with his own eyes. No human from the village is jumping into space.
“You’re just about done exploring your movement abilities,” Albert continues. “You’ve gone from being barely able to move, to being able to move slowly, to being able to move quickly. The only reason why you’ve progressed through this arc is because you have muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other things that enable you to absorb and propel force. Otherwise, you’d move around like a machine. A bulldozer. Something without an elastic component.”
“The human body is an amazing system…but it’s finite. You can only move so many ways. Now that you’ve explored all those ways within the constant of gravity, your physical adaptations will creep closer to a plateau.”
Hume stands there, soaking up every word as Albert continues. “When you could barely stand, let alone squat, your body was reacting harshly to the gravity. Humans are unique. When confronted with a stress, we don’t simply adapt to survive the stress. There was an alien fellow that visited this village a few months back. I feel bad for him because he didn’t have this unique ‘thing’ us humans do. He’ll always be walking around as if he had concrete blocks for arms and legs. Clumsy. Clunky. Ugh.”
“Humans don’t adapt to survive. Humans adapt to thrive. So when you’re faced with a stress (like that of gravity), you adapt in a 1-UP fashion. When you could barely stand, your body adapted in a 1-UP fashion. You gained the ability to stand and then 1-UP, so you were able to squat a little bit. Then you squatted a little bit and got another 1-UP. Then you were able to leave the surface of the earth a bit, which led to another 1-UP. You then jumped higher and higher and higher.”
And, with this, Hume sat down. He could tell Albert had a lot more to say. Albert continued.
“Your body won’t respond to the same stress the same way over time because as you improve your abilities, what was previously a 1-UP becomes more commonplace. And what’s commonplace doesn’t scale the same. There’s a nonlinearity to this whole thing.”
“Say, for instance, you decided to jump off a one inch object one million times. No problem, right? But say you decided to jump off a one million inch object (83333 feet) one time. By all mathematical standards, they both are equal in impact.
(1 x 1000000) = (1000000 x 1)
But the nonlinearity makes all the difference. And, quite frankly, the gravity here on Earth only tacks us down by a magnitude of about 9.8 meters per second squared. So when it’s just you and your body, there’s no way to scale beyond this stress.”
“There are humans on this planet that lift weights in order to exploit this 1-UP mechanism that a philosopher named Nassim Taleb coined antifragility. Some humans go into a gym and load a barbell with 100-pounds. They struggle under the 100-pounds, just like you struggled with gravity. But the body, with its antifragility, adapts to then handle 105-pounds. See that? Lift 100, but the body doesn’t adapt to 100. It adapts 1-UP. So then they go lift 105-pounds. Then the body adapts to handle 110-pounds. Then the process continues up and up over time.”
“This is all fine and dandy for those people in the gym that have circular iron discs at their disposal because when their body adapts to 100-pounds, they simply add more weight to the bar. But you? You’re like the human in the gym, yes, but it’s as if you are stuck with lifting 100-pounds from now until the end of time because gravity doesn’t scale upwards. It’s a constant. So, in some sense, think of yourself as that same guy in the gym. Imagine you had 100-pounds of iron discs. You’re going to reach a point where you can’t add more weight. Same goes for living with gravity. You hit a point where you’ve ‘mastered’ gravity within the typical movements of a human.”
Hume looks around and sees the villagers walking and squatting. He sees them moving their arms about. He sees the typical movements Albert is talking about. Albert continues.
“Once you reach the 100-pound cliff (which is the cliff of gravity in parallel to the story), you’d only then be able to scale just as you have: by ‘leaving the earth.’ After squatting 100-pounds, you could jump with 100-pounds, for instance. But, keep in mind, different adaptations follow. Your body grows different when you struggle to lift 100-pounds compared to when you’re throwing 100-pounds around like a cabbage patch doll.”
“If you were dedicate, there would come a point where you’ve done everything you could imagine doing with the 100-pounds, at which point you plateau. If you wanted to improve your performance and physique beyond, you need to find a way to scale the stress upward. Same goes for existing within gravity. Earth’s gravity has given you all it can give. And your human body, with all of its wonderful intricacies and abilities, has reaped all it can reap from it.”
Hume looked distraught. He wanted to jump even higher and be even more muscular.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Albert says, “you don’t have to be finished. You still have antifragility within you. You still adapt 1-UP. But if you want to keep climbing, you have to seek higher and higher stress.”
“But how?” Hume asks.
“Well,” Albert says, “you can scale stress many ways. Some people lift weights. Some people jump off high objects and force harsh landings because of their body’s acceleration though gravity. Some people expose their body to torque forces.”
“But since you came from outer space, you might want to try something else. There’s a planet called Jupiter in our galaxy. The gravity there is higher than Earth’s. You can go there. Repeat the same process you went through on Earth.”
With those words, Hume got to his spaceship and headed for Jupiter. Upon his arrival, he found himself in a familiar situation. He was tacked to the floor. Couldn’t move. Struggled.
He met Jupe. Jupe, like any alien, insulted Hume. (Hume would have the last laugh.) Hume followed the same adaptation curve, going from moving slowly and requiring great effort to effortlessly and being able to jump and do everything he was able to do on Earth. His grew even bigger muscles.
After he mastered Jupiter’s gravity, he wanted to thank Albert. He went back to Earth. When he walked out of his spaceship, he felt extremely light. He was able to jump much higher and move much quicker than his previous Earthly self.
“Wow,” Hume said to himself. “My body is used to Jupiter. It’s so much easier to move on Earth now!”
He found Albert one day, and Albert said, “Ah, Hume! Good to see you. You look a lot different. I see you pulled off The Goku.”
“What’s The Goku?” Hume asked.
“Oh nothing,” Albert said. “Now come help pluck potatoes from the ground for harvest.”
The post A silly story about gravity, adaptation appeared first on Anthony Mychal.
An astronaut was rocketed into space. He was twenty years old. He stayed there for ten years. His shuttle is now re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.
Before he began orbiting the Earth, he was a typical human being. He could run, jump, throw, and move marvelously through Earthly space-time.
He’s being carted off the space shuttle in a wheel chair.
His twenty-year old marvelous moving self has fizzled. He’s now Gertrude incarnate…and he’s only thirty years old.
You were twenty years old when the astronaut went into space. But you stayed on Earth for the past ten years. You’re thirty now, too.
You don’t need no stinkin’ wheelchair.