Measuring the TPSF of the Human Spirit

February 24, 2011

Zen Masters will tell you to focus in the present moment.
…to live in the Now…

But Physicists and Bio-engineers will tell you that sensors and information processing systems are limited by a certain delay in response and a certain window-width to react to external signals:

                                                          The Evil:   Point Spread Function.

Microscopists, Astronomers, and Audio engineers, among others will tell you for sure that this Evil function prevents us from knowing the “Real World”.

Shameless plug: That is, by the way, one of the reasons why ITKv4 will soon carry methods for performing deconvolution.

When capturing information from external signals, sensors can usually only read the result of convolving their point spread function with the incoming signal, in order to produce an actual measurement (…and sure, this assumes a simplified linear model that doesn’t hold under all conditions… but… give me a break!).

When applied to temporal signals we call this the Temporal Point Spread Function: of TPSF for short.

Emese Nagy, a developmental psychologist at the University of Dundee, UK. recently published a study in the Journal of Ethology that measured how long the athletes of the Summer Olympics would hug.

  • The study found that regardless of gender and national origin, the hugs lasted about 3-seconds on average.
  • These findings support the hypothesis that we go through life perceiving the “present” in a series of 3-seconds windows.
  • These are the “basic temporal units of life” that define our perception of the “present moment”.

Colwyn Trewarthen, from the University of Edinburgh summarizes the finding masterly:

“We’re not talking about something crude and automatic. We’re talking about something flexible and highly expressive,” Trevarthen says. “It’s biological. It’s mental. It’s spiritual. This is the timing of the human spirit.”

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