The ABs in Camera and in the Cake Tin. Will it be a photo finish?

“Smithy just wanted to try something and just get a bit of a gauge of trying to see  things I’m seeing as play unfolds.”  All Black Dan Carter   

“In a patterning system, like the human brain system, there is no stronger magic that can be used than the magic of repetition.” Michael Hewitt-Gleeson,  School of Thinking 

This is a blog of two halves. I’m starting it before the All Blacks Wooden Spoon test against Australia in Wellington tonight and finishing it after the game ends. Will the fans be baying for the blood of the All Blacks coaching troika or will the rejigged team do enough to prevent the Rugby Union’s stakeholders adopting trenchant Transylvanian tactics?

 Earlier in the week one of the coaches was in the media spotlight for trying out some new technology. According to a Press story by Richard Knowler, Dan Carter was sporting a  camera on his head gear at training in order to feed images back to a laptop for coach Wayne Smith to get a first five eight’s view as to how he reads the game of rugby. 

Apparently it is now commonpace for players to wear GPS chips on their backs to record how far they’ve travelled during training but this is a  new technological twist.

 [TV shots of the dressing rooms-the All Black huddle tight. Hope the forwards can stay this tight on the paddock, especially at scrum time. Cut to the Wallabies coming out onto the ground wearing track suits, something that ABs don’t seem to do, even in cold weather.]                                                                                                                            

 Of course there are much more sophisticated tools for investigating the central nervous system. What rugby cyborgs really need is to be hooked up to mobile neuroscanning equipment to display, in real time, their neurons firing as the brain literally lights  up to  make cranial topographic mapping possible.

 The key is not just the physical peripheral vision of key playmakers but an understanding of the central role the almond-shaped amygdala plays in determining how players respond unconsciously to emotional situations, which is what all sport is really about. Brain explosions are not something that  conventional video cameras can capture and map, though fans have seen a few of these unaided recently.

 The technology would also give interesting feedback from females as they encounter Dan’s AB abs in underwear ads. (-see Blink*)

 To paraphrase School of Thinking Founder Michael Hewitt-Gleeson: the atoms of the brain are  nerve cells or neurons. Each neuron is our fundamental intellectual unit. It is an information-processing system and the basic product of these units is messaging much more amazing than SMS-more expansive and less expensive.

Neurons are perfectly designed messaging systems. They have two ends: a receiving end and a transmitting end (or an input end and an output end). At the receiving end each of your neurons has a convenient tree-like system of dendrites – input wires – which can receive information from other neurons. is a vast network of about 100 billion neurons and each one of your neurons has up to 50,000 connecting wires (dendrites) with synapses. That’s a lot of brainpower.(-see Blink*)

[Now the Battle of Anthems—one sided as usual: All but one of the Australians sing manfully and actually look young and free as they sing in almost joyful strains. The St Patrick’s College Boys Choir sings  a stunning unadorned rendition of the NZ anthem. Several ABs have actually learnt the Maori first verse. Dan Carter does the best, actually opening his mouth and lifting his head up, but most of the others look like ventriloquists. They do come to life during the haka,  Ka mate!  ringing out so clearly you could just about hear it at Te Rauparaha’s old Kapiti Island base.]

Axons are like ‘telegraph wires’ that transmit electrical signals along their own length. At the end of its wire the axon’s electrical signal is transformed into a chemical output – a neurotransmitter.

A neurotransmitter is a package of chemical information which has an effect on the neuron that receives it in much the same way that a fax or an email is a package of information which has an effect on you when you receive it. The way this chemical package effects the neuron receiving it is by causing a change in its electro-chemical activity.

 To Send or Not To Send, That’s the decision says Hewitt-Gleeson. Indecisiveness lingers at the binary divide.

 [The All Blacks start  decisively, with menacing purpose, the ball in hand, not kicked away…but Dan uncharacteristically misses an early penalty quick from a handy possie.  The Aussies have hardly touched the ball in the first 5 minutes… then kick their first penalty opportunity after 8 minutes-and repeat the dose 3 minutes later, a little against the run of play.]

But despite all its intellectual firepower, the malleable, self-organising brain is still slow to change its perceptions of the world.  When new ideas are presented they are always appeared with pre- existing ideas, which are already embedded in the brain.

 This is why most marketing campaigns take much longer than is commonly thought, to change consumers brand perceptions. It follows that marketing campaigns-and maybe rugby strategies and tactics- should not be changed so often. It takes time to develop a new team mindset. Too much chopping and changing causes neurological confusion.

 [Cory Jane scores a brilliant try-catching his own kick and breaking free of outclutched hand, setting the game on fire but it’s  not enough to evince a reaction from the immobile visaged Steve Hansen, who, if he ever loses his day job, could coach aspiring poker players].

Cambridge-based researchers have provide new evidence that the human brain lives “on the edge of chaos”, at a critical transition point between randomness and order.(-see Blink*)

 [The scrums tonight veer more to chaos although the lineouts are more ordered, a distinct improvement on the non-linear shambles of recent games.]

 It is a natural behaviour of the brain to form patterns. Our perception is more than the receipt and processing of sensory images. Wrong thinking can start with mis-perception.  Changing the way we see our world can radically change our behaviour. 

 A  pattern is something that is repeated more often than randomness or chaos. The architecture of a pattern is repetition. That’s why in a patterning-system like the human brain system, repetition is the most powerful learning strategy you can use.

 That’s also why there is a great deal of repetition in any effective training-on the sports field or in the world of work. The critics of “rote learning” fail to understand that repetition helps to build patterns in our brains so it becomes easier for us to use the licence-free necktop software we each come equipped with.

 As Hewitt-Gleeson says: “In a patterning system, like the human brain system, there is no stronger magic that can be used than the magic of repetition….. You can choose your own repetitions…Ever since you were born advertisers and religions have used repetition to program your brain. So, you may as well use it yourself to embrace the patterns that YOU decide are most useful for your own brain. Take charge!” .(-see Blink*)

 [The All Blacks have definitely taken charge. The fulltime score is 33- 6, with 16 unanswererd points in the second half through some great back tries.   Perhaps they used the new technology to plot the GPS coordinates to find their way to the tryline. I’ll need to watch the highlights package to see the bits I missed by looking at the wrong screen.]

In the end, as you might expect,  the game was more of a triumph of teamwork than technology, with the All Blacks taking the cake at the Cake Tin and ending the  Tri Nations season on a high, with several new players earning their rations of hard tack.  Steve Hansen looks positively rapturous and relieved.

After two losses at home this season the late win doesn’t quite qualify as peaking between World Cups.  King Henry and courtiers needn’t worry about getting the chop. The block has been quietly wheeled way and the axe put into storage. Not that there were any unattached likely coaching pretenders in the wings-unless they go for a neurologist and a real psychologist.

Te Rauparaha composed Ka Mate as a celebration of life over death after his lucky escape from pursuing Ngati Maniapoto and Waikato enemies. He had hidden from them in a food-storage pit, and climbed back into the light to see a hairy friend.  

 The All Blacks, some of them also hairy men, will feel a deserved warm glow as they savour what ended up as a decisive victory when it could have been the pits.

 BLINKS:

 Neurons And Neuro-Transmitters (4:51)   Literally mind-boggling stuff from the Discovery Channel.

 http://www.schoolofthinking.org   Michael Hewitt-Gleeson  School of Thinking  Software for the Brain.

 The human brain is on the edge of chaos  The Cambridge study.

 Dan Carter in his undies   AB’s abs.

  Lyall Lukey 19 September 2009   http://www.lukey.co.nz/

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2 Responses to The ABs in Camera and in the Cake Tin. Will it be a photo finish?

  1. Mark says:

    Lyall, an inspiring post and a great result from the ABs. Hopefully, we now understand that they were firing on all neurons rather than all cylinders.

    The camera idea can prove a powerful yet cheap way of improving focus on exactly the sorts of things you’re addressing in this post. Several years ago now, a colleague in Australia outfitted fire incident commanders with helmet mounted cameras to collect images of their situational awareness. After the fires, she and her graduate assistants debriefed the ICs and coded they interpretations of the images they saw displayed from the cameras.

    The results were surprising for both the chiefs and the researchers. Many of them had no idea how narrow their attention had been focused during the event. Likewise, the researchers found the appreciation of the chiefs more complex and powerful than they had first assumed, particularly as it relates to the emotional power of the images on the coding of experience. This clearly had an effect on the way they appreciated and layed down patterns.

    Fire chiefs like to think of themselves as passionately compassionate yet nevertheless detached and highly rational decision-makers. These results proved they were only half right. Although not truly irrational, their decisions did not follow anything we routinely consider the model for rational thought processes. Then again as most of the new research suggests, neither does most of the other stuff we think of as rational thought.

    Thanks for such an entertaining read. Thanks too for the kind remarks about my post over at r4resilience. I enjoy reading your blog, and look forward to continuing our dialog online.

    P.S.: Please pass along my best regards to the fellows at Rotary.

  2. lyall1 says:

    Thanks Mark-that’s literally a whole new perspective.
    Would a way to encapsulate both be “field of vision” and “internal perception” or is that too simplistic??

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