This week's experiment has made the rounds through the Internet as a strange trick, but there is science here too. We are going to use the science of complex systems to confuse your body. To try this, you will need:
your hands and feet
Lift your right foot about 6 inches off the ground. Now start moving it in circles, clockwise. As you continue doing that, use your right hand to draw a number 6 in the air in front of you. As you do that, you will find that your foot has changed directions and is now going counterclockwise.
Now, how did that happen? Although the experiment is easy, it is far from simple. It took quite a bit of digging to trace this trick back to Professor Haken and the science of Synergetics. This science deals with the ways that complex systems work. In a complex system such as your brain and nervous system, there are many different signals moving back and forth. Some of these signals are treated with more importance than others. Some of the signals also become coupled, with one signal guiding the other. That is what is happening with your foot and hand. Your hand movement couples with your foot movement, but your hand movement is treated with more importance, so your foot changes direction.
Even more interesting is that you don't actually have to move your hand. Try the experiment again, but this time just think about drawing the number 6 in the air. Your foot will still reverse. The pattern of your thoughts still couples with the movement of your foot. For even more fun, try drawing a number 8. Redraw the number over and over in a continuous motion and you will find that your foot keeps switching back and forth.
There are several variables in this experiment, so it may not work exactly for you the first time. If you find that it does not work well, trying circling your right foot while drawing the 6 with your left hand. Try reversing things, using your left foot and right hand, etc.
Why do your body movements couple? Get up and
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