degrees of freedom problem

The Degrees of Freedom Problem (and Why a Good Teacher Is Worth Their Weight in Gold)

At first glance, throwing a crumpled up ball of paper into a trash can seems like a pretty simple task. Hold with fingers, and flick forward with wrist and elbow. How hard can that be? But when you get serious about developing your trashketball skills, it becomes apparent that the throw is not so simple. Unlike, say, a trashketball-playing robot with fixed joints that is perfectly calibrated to make a basket by moving in exactly the same way every time, our joints and limbs are flexible and can…


your brain isn't wired for consistency - but that's not as depressing as it sounds

Your Brain Isn’t Wired for Consistency - but That’s Not as Depressing as It Sounds

Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to reproduce your signature exactly the same way every single time? Or play a G major scale exactly the same way twice in a row (never mind 10 times)? These are all relatively straightforward motor tasks. So doesn’t it seem reasonable to assume that if we put in enough hours, we should eventually be able to ace these 100% of the time? At least, that’s what the maxim “practice makes perfect” seems to promise us. So…why are none of us there yet? As a kid,…


Do you rehearse to practice or practice to rehearse?

Do You Rehearse to Practice or Practice to Rehearse?

A few days ago, I watched an up-and-coming young quartet publicly rehearse a Haydn quartet that they were beginning to work on. One of those in attendance was violinist Laurie Smukler, who remarked on an aspect of their rehearsal that I had never really thought of, but which totally makes sense. She commented on how well they could play their individual parts. And as a result, how flexible they were. How quickly and effortlessly they were able to adapt, adjust, change, switch directions, and…


Gain a psychological edge by talking about yourself in the third person

Gain a Psychological Edge by Talking about Yourself in the Third Person

It’s cute when little kids talk about themselves in the third person. But adults who refer to themselves in the third person? Most seem to find it annoying. At least, based on my totally uber-scientific data analysis of people who comment on Esquire blog posts about people who refer to themselves in the third person, which definitively proves that 62.5% of people find this annoying. Or perhaps this special report from Ellen DeGeneres, where she speaks out against illeism7. Though…