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Juggling By the Numbers 59

Posted by timothy
from the first-they-came-for-the-tab-sites dept.
theodp writes "The BBC News' Laura Gray reports on a juggling notation system developed in the 80's called Siteswap (aka Quantum Juggling and Cambridge Notation) and how it has helped jugglers discover and share thousands of new tricks. Frustrated that there was no way to write down juggling moves, mathematician Colin Wright and others helped devised Siteswap, which uses sequences of numbers to encode the number of beats of each throw, which is related to their height and the hand to which the throw is made. 'Siteswap has allowed jugglers to share tricks with each other without having to meet in person or film themselves,' says James Grime, juggling enthusiast and math instructor for Cambridge University. Still unclear on the concept? Spend some time playing around with Paul Klimek's most-excellent Quantum Juggling simulator, and you too can be a Flying Karamazov Brother!"
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Juggling By the Numbers

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  • You should not juggle the cat.
  • Talking about juggling is pretty boring- check out some of his vids on youtube.
    • by Threni (635302)

      Juggling is boring though, performed by annoying, attention seeking arseholes who always get in your face. That's why I support anything that will encourage jugglers to experiment with knives, chainsaws and fire. Here's hoping.

      • by PopeRatzo (965947)

        Juggling is boring though

        It's boring to watch, but not boring to do.

        About 20-some years ago, my martial arts instructor (who is now 87) decided that I needed to learn how to juggle. Nothing fancy, just three balls. I told him I didn't know Chinese juggled and he smacked me. I got up to 4 objects and then learned to pass with another juggler. I think it helped me as a martial artist and as a musician. It also was a great source of amusement for my daughter when she was little. I could juggle and she'd

  • and it took a long time to be able to do that. Four is a *LOT* harder. I cannot even fathom trying to learn all of these advanced maneuvers.

    • by narcc (412956)

      No kidding. It took an hour a day for a solid month before I could juggle three balls at all. A bit longer than that to be able to manage it longer than a minute with any kind of consistency.

      Seeing a skilled juggler now is boggling. Kudos to the skillful Slashdot jugglers!

      • by hankwang (413283)

        It took an hour a day for a solid month before I could juggle three balls at all.

        Sounds familiar. Then I met a woman (who ended up becoming my wife) and explained her the basics and within twenty minutes she was able to keep three balls in the air for ten throws or so.

        That day, I decided to restrict myself to practicing skils that I actually have some talent for. :-)

        • As I mentioned in another post, I taught juggling to a few hundreds people.
          My best students were all women.
          My best student could juggle "endlessly" after 2 minutes.
          I couldn't believe it, but she really didn't know how to juggle at first, and I saw the complete usual learning curve in a time span of 2 minutes.
          I showed her the "Mill's mess" after that, and she managed to do it after 3 tries. It looked sketchy, but it was definitely the right movement and rhythm.

          BTW, twenty minutes is longer than my teaching a

          • by hankwang (413283)

            I usually begin a session by telling my student that it's only gonna take 10 minutes.

            Instead of the success stories, I would be more interested in how many students are like me and the guy I replied to: hours and hours of practicing to get anywhere.

            Mind you, people like me are also behind the rest in dance classes, car driving (with stick shift and Dutch bicyclists everywhere) and everything else that requires motoric coordination skills.

            • I was by far my worst student. It took me a few hours a day and a month to learn 3.

              Since then, it never took me more than 1 hour to teach juggling to someone.
              The only student who failed was my nephew (he's 4) who got bored after 5 minutes of trying.

              I supposed you didn't have a good teacher. Everybody can learn how to juggle.

              • Oh and at the time I could manage 6 - sort of, but I could do 3 in my right hand fairly well. So after someone complained about it being hard I'd do it one handed (in the same cascade pattern, not just up and down like a shower). Shut people up real good.
            • by Jmc23 (2353706)
              Depends if you really lack motor coordination skills. What it sounds like is you either have your left and right confused or one side of your body is doing the work for both sides. The former more common in women, the latter in geeky guys. Basic unfamiliarity with a motor movement is never too time consuming when you have adequate feedback (working eyes and 3d vision help!).

              Took me about 2 weeks before i stopped throwing the balls at the wall in front of me. 4 balls is simple when you're divided. 5 ba

            • by HalfFlat (121672)

              Much like BlackPignouf, it took me a month of daily practice to learn how to do the standard three cascade, and having been through that, I've found it very easy to teach others how to do it. (Probably, familiarity with a whole suite of failure modes helps.)

              I persisted with juggling, and had a lot of fun with more complicated patterns, pass juggling, and so on. But it is all a case of directed persistance overcoming a complete lack of any natural ability.

            • I used to teach people to juggle in college - and had similar stories - most people could manage at least a decent showing of the standard 3 ball cascade within a half hour at most - but every once in a while I'd come across someone that just couldn't learn - not sure why. .

              Interesting to note that I would start with just tossing one ball from hand to hand - as soon as you can do that consistently, try two (as in left, right, catch, catch, right left, catch catch, etc). again do that until they look the s

    • Four is a *LOT* harder.

      Four is a lot harder... I found (and still find) four harder than five, since juggling four in a cascade pattern is basically juggling five but "passing the gap" — making sure that the gap, where the fifth ball should be, is harder for me than actually having that fifth ball in place.

      A very useful (as much as any juggling is "useful"...) technique for four is to learn to juggle two in each hand simultaneously, in both rotations and in columns. Asynchronous columns of two balls in each hand (no pun

      • Four is a lot harder... I found (and still find) four harder than five, since juggling four in a cascade pattern is basically juggling five but "passing the gap" — making sure that the gap, where the fifth ball should be, is harder for me than actually having that fifth ball in place.

        Then don't do that!
        Why would you learn 55550 before 5 or 4? As you said, it's harder than 5 or 4, but it doesn't help to learn either one.
        It's also sketchy, and tends to go out of rhythm.

        If you want to learn 4, try 441 f

        • Then don't do that!

          Fair advice :) I'd just skip 4 and go to 5, but I didn't express that too clearly!

          • Then don't do that!

            Fair advice :) I'd just skip 4 and go to 5, but I didn't express that too clearly!

            What he means is - don't juggle four in that way! Juggle four by doing two in each hand, in a vertical plane parallel to your shoulders, the throws happening asynchronously. It's *way* easier than juggling 5, and similarly *way* easier than juggling 4 in a 5 pattern with one missing. These SiteSwaps with 3 help a lot:

            ... 333 42 333 ...

            ... 333 4440 333 ...

            ... 333 441 333 ...

            • Juggle four by doing two in each hand, in a vertical plane parallel to your shoulders, the throws happening asynchronously.

              If just for the sake of juggling four, or as the basis for tricks with five, then sure — as a means of progressing to a five ball cascade, I'm not sure that would help at all? For me, that was great for co-ordination training for three in each hand, but not as something on its own. But I guess everyone juggles for their own reasons!

              • The original complaint was that four is a lot harder than five. This is manifestly false.

                On the other hand, if your target is to get to five, then I *still* think it's faster to learn a four fountain, then learn simpler tricks with four, then learn some SiteSwaps with four, then move to working directly on five, rather than working just on doing five.

                Yes, different people have different reasons for learning, and different people will learn best in different ways, but trying to do four in one of the harder

                • trying to do four in one of the harder patterns, and then claiming that four is harder than five, is simply perverse.

                  Fair point :)

    • It took me about a month to learn how to juggle with 3 balls.
      I didn't have a teacher by then, and only saw a guy doing it in the street.
      The good news is that I did pretty much all the mistakes one can do by learning. :)

      In all modesty, I think I became a very good juggling teacher. I taught a few hundred people how to juggle, and it took anywhere from 2 minutes (really) to an hour.
      Anyone can do it, and you really got to begin with the basics (that is, with one ball, going from L to R and R to L).

      I'm blind in

      • For the beginner, don't use balls as you'll always be chasing the dropped ones. Use bean bags, or three hackey sacks. Start off holding two in one hand, one in the other. Throw one of the two into the air and, as it begins to descend, throw the one in your other hand into the air and catch the first one. Repeat. In the beginning you'll notice a tendency to throw them away from yourself, and walking forward trying to catch them. Try to keep your throws close to your body. When you catch one, that's called
  • but I've been using it for years with friends. It's easier to just say "744 with five balls" than to come up with some random name for the move/pattern.
    • If you do not have access already, get hold of a copy of Charlie Dancey's Compendium of Club Juggling — you've obviously got siteswap mastered anyway, but, as a collation of some fantastic (and some simply fun) moves for club juggling and passing, it takes some beating.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    One of the coolest ball juggling tricks I've ever seen is the 13 11 9 7 5 3 1. That's a 7-ball pattern where for a brief moment all 7 balls are in the air in a vertical column. Siteswap notation helped fuel a revolution in "numbers" juggling (more than 3 objects). Before siteswap, nobody really knew what to do with large numbers of balls so numbers juggling was generally limited to the basic cascade pattern. The advent of siteswap helped people realize that there were actually interesting patterns, and

    • 4 8 15 16 23 42 Lost
    • I agree, but for siteswap numbers higher than 9, we usually use hexadecimal notation : db97531
      Otherwise, how do you tell the difference between 13 and 13 :D?

      • So can I say that I can juggle 13?
        (I know, this pattern should be called 31 rather than 13)

        • 31 can be called 13.
          I think it's called an "excited state", and you need a 3 as introduction and a 1 for the finish :D

          • 31 can be called 13.

            When I learned the notation, I was told that the convention is choosing among all cyclic permutations the largest in lexicographical order. So "31" rather than "13" should be the norm. All the often-mentioned siteswaps seem to follow this convention.

            • 31 can be called 13.

              When I learned the notation, I was told that the convention is choosing among all cyclic permutations the largest in lexicographical order. So "31" rather than "13" should be the norm. All the often-mentioned siteswaps seem to follow this convention.

              That's not always the best thing to do. For example, 45141 is a ground state three ball SiteSwap, one of my favorites. If you write it as 51414 it's not longer possible to go directly into it from cascade.

  • Juggling has a very long, rich, lineage and a well established community-base. Interestingly, It and many other circus-esque artforms involving "object-manipulation", can now in some ways be considered as paralleling/part of a larger movement/subculture that is quickly evolving and gaining steam - It can be thought of as a festival-culture similar to the jam bands of the 60's and onward crossed with martial arts, dance/jazz improvisation, circue-du-soleil and open-source information paradigms. The community

    • by spiralx (97066) *

      I've also been doing poi for almost a decade now, although not nearly at the ferocious pace I learnt at in the first four years or so. It's interesting how it has developed over the years, people now learn a whole different way than I did, back before concepts such as flowers, isolations and hyperloops were developed... was lucky enough to be around some of the people who came up with these things when I was very much into it. It's still one of the few things that calms my ADD twitchiness and anxiety, and i

  • Fascinating (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hackertourist (2202674) <hackertourist@xmRASPsnet.nl minus berry> on Saturday December 22, 2012 @06:44AM (#42368267)

    The idea that creating the right language can make such a difference may be dismissed as obvious by the /. audience who are familiar with this effect in programming languages.
    But it shows the power of having someone look at a problem from a new or unusual perspective. In this case a mathematician managed to encompass most of the act of juggling in a simple expression. It must be incredibly satisfying to get an Eureka moment of this magnitude.

  • I saw a fascinating lecture explaining the notation, including how it can be used to prove whether a particular pattern is physically possible or not.

    He even got the audience to come up with a five ball pattern that fitted the criteria and managed to juggle it. It wasn't pretty though - it's a bit like musical notation, there are lots of things that will fit but don't actually work aesthetically. If someone can find a way to grade patterns on 'appeal' they'd be rich...

  • How is that news?

    I was juggling like crazy in the 90's, but that's still almost 20 years ago.

  • http://juggling.tv/12550 [juggling.tv] - Team Shreddie Crunch 2

    A great sample of mainly siteswap and numbers juggling by some of the British best technical ball jugglers. (Link to the more recent video).
    There are plenty of good examples out there, but this is one of the best.

    Disclaimer - I'm friends with most of these guys, just lucky enough to have lived in the part of the world with the possibly the highest concentration of technical jugglers.

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