The "limits" of juggling ability.

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ejwysz -

The "limits" of juggling ability. What are they? I'm talking the 4-Minute mile here.

I've seen this debated about in reference to juggling before, and thought I'd bring it up on the Edge.

What are the absolute limits of technical juggling ability? Or are there possibly none? Is there a maximum amount of objects that a human being can possibly flash, or qualify?

A member of the juggling club I go to told me that the human brain can only perceive 7 (plus or minus two) objects in motion at a time. He went on to say that while jugglers may currently qualify 10 or even 11 balls, their brains can't fully understand what's going on, and juggling ability actually can't go much farther than it currently has. I found that exceedingly interesting, even though I - if only out of hope and love of juggling - disagree with it.

What do you think?

peterbone - - Parent

It's probably true that the brain can only perceive 7 objects *consciously*, but with training most of what you're doing when juggling becomes subconscious. Even when just walking in a crowded street your brain is subconsciously perceiving and processing probably hundreds or thousands of things at once. The limits don't come from the brain, but the physical limits of the body. Some work has been done on this by Jack Kalvan, although I don't fully agree with the methods or the results.

From experience I can say that the physical difficulty increases exponentially. The next number always requires greater height and speed, but at the same time more accuracy and more weight in the hands at the start. I believe a 14 ball flash is doable, but I don't think we'll see anyone doing 15. I think that long runs of 11 is doable also.

Daniel Simu - - Parent

Why not 15? Alex is young, so he must have reached 13 in a relatively short time. With 10 years more training at this pace, he could be at a level that makes 15 within reach? Or do you think the best age to flash high numbers is early 20s?

Also, I don't know so many people who work dedicated on their numbers. Out of so many jugglers, so few seem to care after 7 balls. If there would ever be a culture shift where more jugglers decided to dedicate all their time to flashing 15 balls, or even if we just wait another 100 years which gives time for plenty of other jugglers to rise, would there not inevitably be a lucky shot at some point?

All that being said, my experience with numbers juggling does not even come close to yours...

peterbone - - Parent

Alex was juggling for several years before he became more involved with the juggling community. I don't think that numbers juggling is something that only people in their early 20s can push the limits of (or I hope not). I think you underestimate the difficulty of increasing the number. It would be like asking if a sprinter can run the 100m in under 9 seconds. The difference is just over half a second, but to achieve that would require much more power. I think that a 15 ball flash would be even less likely.

ejwysz - - Parent

Peter, your 11 ball flash with a pirouette is one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. After seeing you push forward the "edge" of juggling, I have to say I'm surprised at your cynicism.

What if Gatto had shifted gears, and for years dedicated his practice to high numbers with beanbags? Do you think he never would have nailed 15?

peterbone - - Parent

The 11 ball flash with a pirouette is not much harder than an 11 ball flash. I collect 10 and then just spin under the last one. I'd say that it's easier than 13 catches with 11. I do believe that we're still a long way off the limits of numbers juggling, but I also believe that 15 beanbags will never be flashed no matter who it is. Gatto would have the same chance as anyone else under the same conditions in my opinion.

Hearing you mention Albert Lucas has made me want to clarify something. I don't think that 15 beanbags will ever be flashed from the hands. Juggling records set using a holster for the launch don't count in my opinion, but the official rules do say that you can use them currently. I'm almost certain that Albert has flashed 14 rings with a holster. My statement doesn't apply to rings either, which seem to become easier than balls at the higher numbers.

Daniel Simu - - Parent

Ah, yeah, that changes the game too...

Are you even able to launch 8 balls with decent height and accuracy from one hand? The grip must be terrible....

peterbone - - Parent

Yes, a have an 8 ball grip, but never really tested it with high throws at speed. I hold 6 in zig-zag and 2 on top, holding the back top one down with my thumb.

lukeburrage - - Parent

I watched Anthony Gatto in 2000 breaking records and such (and later on video). 12 rings looked trivial.

However, as soon as he tried 7 rings in one hand, it looked waaaaay beyond his abilities. It wasn't just the grip, or not having holsters, as he would pass the last few rings over to the launching hand from the other hand. The height and speed needed for the 7 rings in one hand is right at the very limits of human capabilities. From my own (limited) experience, and from watching others, the extra pattern height needed for higher numbers increases way more quickly with rings than with beanbags.

So with holsters, 7 rings from one hand seems more than possible. 8 seems less probable. I'd put the cap there at 14 rings.

Next consideration:

Balls don't have handles, so if they are in a holster, or stuck with velcro, they have to be big enough to grab cleanly without looking. This is super easy with rings, as the whole thing is a handle, and also easier with clubs, as it is half handle.

BUT when you catch, balls also don't have handles, nor do they have holes. Rings can easily fall down over your arms, leaving the hand to catch the next ring unimpeded. Clubs can also be tucked under arms, or generally clamped against the body (see latest Willy Colombaino 9 club video). But once a ball is caught, it's just taking up space in the hand.

So no matter if you can launch 8 balls from a hand (for 15) you have to also catch 8 balls in one hand, or at least 7.5 balls per hand. David Ferman is already struggling to catch all 10 balls at the end of his world record run, and even using his arms and leaning back, only gathers 9.

If you have a ball big enough to be suitable for a holster, it's then too big to catch at the end. The way to get a record is to do more throws, and get the record without a clean finish (like David did with 10 balls). But for 15 balls, with balls you can launch and catch 5 in per hand, that means 5 more balls in a holster, which then means you have to do 20 throws in a clean enough pattern, then catch the next 10 balls clean, and let the last 5 hit the floor AFTER you've already caught those first 10 balls clean.

Anyway, this is a long way of saying I don't think any new high numbers record with balls will be set with holsters of any kind, and also kinda why I don't think 15 balls will ever be flashed by baseline humans we have in the world today. Not unless juggling becomes as prestigious as the 100m sprint, or some other crazy hypothetical.

emilyw - - Parent

The obvious conclusion is that eventually all the juggling records will be set by people with high end prosthetic arms and a dedicated pair of juggling hands. With the appropriate gear they could even read a book while doing it.

That would be an act I'd watch.

Daniel Simu - - Parent

Perhaps not holsters, but a ball launcher, that allows you to catch the ball first and then throw it up into the pattern.. Can be done with tiny balls, allows for a clean start, who knows what the future might bring us!

Thanks for pointing out the Willy vid, I hadn't seen it yet! Interesting catch indeed ;)

ejwysz - - Parent

I saw some videos of Ty Tojo working on 9 and Dick Franco would throw one high for him to start the pattern.

Orinoco - - Parent

Assuming the launch is not a problem, what would you think about finishing a flash not by gathering balls in your hands but catching & placing them in a kangaroo pouch similar to doing a pull down with rings?

lukeburrage - - Parent


peterbone - - Parent

I'd think the same that I think about using a holster for the launch. It shouldn't count as a pure flash.

mike.armstrong - - Parent

IANANJ, but pull downs require more control than a simple catch. Letting balls bounce off your hands into a sack requires less control so Luke is spot on with his answer.

Orinoco - - Parent

For "Letting balls bounce off your hands" I would certainly agree, but that's not what I said.

I tried this for a few minutes last night at TWJC & found it considerably harder than just catching the balls normally. I had a waist height table in front of me, I considered a successful 'putdown' to have occurred if I felt the table with my fingertips when placing each individual ball, & all the balls remained on the table where I put them, ie if I had dropped or thrown the balls at the table they would have rolled off or to the edge. It took me several attempts to complete a successful putdown with 5 but didn't take me long to be able to do it regularly. The urge to throw the ball down early to make the next catch is really high & difficult to overcome. I found I had to juggle considerably higher than I normally do to give myself time to make the placement. 6 took much longer, usually my 6 ball fountain is only marginally higher than my 5 ball cascade, so the adjustment needed was even greater. I lost interest before I could solidify a 6 ball putdown or try 7.

It won't catch on because it looks crap (unless you can build a stacked pyramid or something), is harder to do & because only the juggler can feel if they've done it right cannot be independently verified.

ejwysz - - Parent

I never knew Anthony worked on that. He never got a 7 in one hand flash when you watched? To play devil's advocate, I'd say working with smaller diameter rings for a shorter pattern height might help... And that Anthony juggled for many years after that, who knows if that was something he was just first trying.

Ferman is using relatively huge balls for that number, and I applaud him for it. But I don't think they'd HAVE to be big if you designed the perfect holster.

So 15 balls... What if someone grabs and launches the last two balls of the 15 from holsters, and to collect places the first two caught back in the holsters before catching the rest? Would this officially be a valid 15 ball flash? The time and accuracy required to put them back in place in my opinion would make it real to me.

Also, I've been thinking a lot about the 14 ball flash... Would flashing 12 synchronous and then exchanging 2 balls in (2x,2x) below it be easier than the standard flash of 14? I feel like if someone did this they might get criticism, but I would personally count it.

lukeburrage - - Parent

"Also, I've been thinking a lot about the 14 ball flash... Would flashing 12 synchronous and then exchanging 2 balls in (2x,2x) below it be easier than the standard flash of 14? I feel like if someone did this they might get criticism, but I would personally count it."

I've read and heard soooo many ideas like this about flashing high numbers. I don't think anyone who hasn't tried 11 or more balls really understands just how fast and physical it is. You have NO TIME to do any of these things. Also your brain and hands only have the capability of doing ONE thing. As in, you can't do up and down motions, then side to side motions, then catch with your hands facing inwards, then turn them all upwards again to catch the rest of the balls. If this was in any way easier than a 14 ball fountain/wimpy pattern, it would also be a standard way for jugglers to flash 8, 10 and 12 balls for the first time. But it isn't, for good reasons.

As an experiment, try your above idea, or any other idea but with 6 balls. But do it sitting under a table. Suddenly how much faster is your flash? How much less time do you have for any of these tricks?

When you get to 12, 13 and 14 balls, the underside of the table is now built out of physical laws and concepts such as gravity, inertia, time and total possible energy expenditure of a closed system.

Orinoco - - Parent

Another way of looking at it is to use siteswaps, the 12 ball pattern you suggest is (e,e)(e,e)(e,e)(e,e)(e,e)(2x,2x). So to start with you've got to learn to do 10 throws of 14 balls.

Scott Seltzer - - Parent

Here's an interesting video of 9 large balls with 4 starting and ending in a holster:

Here's a longer run of 9 starting with 4 in the holster and ending with 7 on the ground:

lukeburrage - - Parent

That second video isn't a longer run. After he throws the second to last ball, he only makes 8 clean catches. The first video is more successful.

ejwysz - - Parent

I really do think they count. It just seems like the logical progression when you reach that technical level.

Like: "I only have 5 fingers, but I have gotten so good at juggling that now I require apparati just to allow my physical body to do this."

There is no shame in that. Yes, you can put 1 between your legs for 11, and I've even seen Junming Lin hold two in his teeth, but where does it end? I would never say anyone's 11 or 12 ring flash didn't count because of a holster. In fact, I find the need for a holster amazing.

peterbone - - Parent

A holster undoubtedly makes it easier. Apart from avoiding the problem of grip, it also greatly reduces weight in the hands for the first throws. A flash consists or the launch and the collect. Anything that aids in either of those phases and is not part of the body or the props should not be counted as a pure flash in my opinion. Working out how to launch and collect high numbers is part of the challenge. It would be like a high jumper deciding that he's reached his limit and saying that he now needs some kind of spring to take it to the next level.

ejwysz - - Parent

I see where you're coming from, but is there anywhere you draw the line in that respect? Catching them with the feet, cradling them in the arms, catching one in the mouth?

In the end, I still think that if you release all of them from your hands, and catch all of them with your hands(provided none drop) it is valid. I would rather see that than someone trying to make a net with their arms and knees to catch balls.

lukeburrage - - Parent

If you can do it naked.

peterbone - - Parent

Uncomfortable memories of your first "11 ball flash" video.

lukeburrage - - Parent

That wasn't me.

peterbone - - Parent

Sorry, I was sure it was you for some reason. There can't be too many numbers jugglers who don't mind getting naked in public (thinking of the Finland EJC games now).

lukeburrage - - Parent

Lots of people remember me doing things that no longer exist in my brain, so it wouldn't have surprised me if you'd found evidence (though most of those forgotten things happened in Renegade shows twelve to fifteen years ago).

barnesy - - Parent

Unfortunate wording perhaps. My first thought was 'there certainly can!'.

ejwysz - - Parent

Whoa, I was almost sure that was you too!

Daniel Simu - - Parent

hahaha! The one thing better than an 11 ball flash is a naked 11 ball flash!

Yes Luke, I also have the Finland EJC memory though. If you ever attempt 12 on camera again, consider doing it naked ;)

Cedric Lackpot - - Parent

> It would be like a high jumper deciding that he's reached his limit and saying that he now needs some kind of spring to take it to the next level.

That would be a pole vaulter would it not?

peterbone - - Parent

Exactly. As long as they make it a separate discipline with it's own rules then it's fine. If it wasn't separate then it would be unfair on the athletes not using poles and pure high jump would eventually no longer exist.

lukeburrage - - Parent

I think this is something that could easily be added to the Juggling World Records page on Wikipedia. Most records have videos, so you could just look at the top end records for rings and clubs to see if holsters or other non-juggler's-own-body assistance is used for launching. There is already a clubs/sticks distinction in place for 9 clubs.

And there shouldn't be a category for any records with holsters or nets for catching and holding props at the end. I still think the Tim Nolan 11 ball bounce record is completely farcical, due to each "catch" being a mere touch to each ball before they all went fucking everywhere. By every definition of juggling records I'd ever write, that wouldn't count at all. But when I set up that page on Wikipedia I just went with the sources and rules already in place, and the bounce page seemed like the authority on the matter, so yeah.

I'm just saying that if holsters attached to the body are allowed for catching balls after they have touched the hands, why not something attached to the floor? Like, you know, a carpet? If this was the case, I've flashed 12 balls LOADS of times.

Little Paul - - Parent

I think I'd only allow the carpet if your feet were attached to the floor.

ejwysz - - Parent

I do think 15 balls will one day be done. After 14 is done (Albert Lucas is lying IMO), 15 will be the next new frontier. Pressure will be on! I think this would be easier with rings, but I am only speculating.

And I agree with you, Daniel. I feel like the reason for people not caring after 7 is because most people able to do such things are professional jugglers, most of whom probably find really high numbers a waste of practical practice time. Would they ever put 11+ objects in a performance? I've never seen it.

But yes. This is one of the things that makes me wish juggling was "bi". Then maybe we would have already seen 15 or 16 objects.

ejwysz - - Parent


Brook Roberts - - Parent

Both Gatto and Ignatov (oh, and Gerasimov, without holsters!) all have performed 11 ring flashes.

And it's not so many, but Gerasimov and Columbaioni perform 8 club flashes. So performers are interested!

I believe Albert Lucas showed a video of a 14 ring flash at this years JJF. He also tried to do it publicly for a TV show, which he probably would not do if he hasn't done it before!

Daniel Simu - - Parent

Yeah, I've been thinking about that too... But than again, hardly any pro ball jugglers perform with their tiny saggy bags which would be recommended for flashing 11, while every pro ring juggler (and club juggler) practises and performs with the same kind of ring that would be required to break a record..

Little Paul - - Parent

I seem to remember Albert Lucas was using specially made titanium rings for his record attempts because they're lighter and more stable than standard rings.

Of course, that memory is from ejc 2000 so shouldn't be trusted...

ejwysz - - Parent

I remember hearing that too.

Mïark - - Parent

I was also at Abert Lucas's pre non-record attempt presentation at EJC 2000 and agree anything said there shouldn't be trusted. The worst abuse of science was the statement that by giving the juggling rings an aerofoil profile gave them more lift.

But for titanium juggling rings to be as light as plastic ones they would need to be 0.3mm thick* (about as thick as 3 pieces of paper) which would slice your fingers off (also titanium isn't very elastic and would deform from being dropped (like an aluminium spinning plate)).

[assuming density of titanium 4.5g/cc, ring dia 32cm, plastic ring weight 130g]

^Tom_ - - Parent

I think that's a bit exaggerated - although I don't have the exact density of the plastic used for rings, nor do I have the exact dimensions of a ring handy to calculate it.

Density of titanium ~4.5g/cc
Density of plastic ~1 g/cc

Therefore thickness of a solid ring would be about 1/4.5 the thickness.

Solid plastic rings tend to be between 3mm and 5mm thick, therefore our titanium ring is now going to be about 1mm thick.
Of course this can easily be made thicker by:
1) making the ring thinner cut out a larger diameter circle.
2) making the ring hollow
3) making the ring heavier
4) thickening the edges (think I-girder, such that the bits which make contact with hands are thicker than those that don't).

The aerofoil story does sound a little suspect, but I'm not going to rule it out entirely. While rings are affected by aerodynamics such that the top of a fountain pattern can be much wider than the base, I can't think of any way in which a wing shape can help... anyone else got any ideas?

peterbone - - Parent

Albert's titanium rings have holes cut out all the way around to reduce weight. He also wears gloves while using them. Remember also that he's using a holster, which I think holds 6 rings, so there's not much weight in the hands at the start. Increasing the weight of the rings slightly could enable you to throw them higher since the inertia can overcome air resistance more (think about throwing a table tennis ball vs a golf ball).

ejwysz - - Parent

Ah, there's the answer.

ejwysz - - Parent

Yep. I've definitely thought about this. Which made me think they might be some sort of alloy, or even be hollow. But then again, who would have the money to design that, especially for what would be likely such a tiny performance increase.

lukeburrage - - Parent

I don't believe Lucas is lying about flashing 14 rings, only that he got it on video. Now he's stuck trying to get it on video again, and can't, so it's going to come back and bite him. I managed just one 12 ball flash in my life, so I know the frustrating feeling of not having recorded your best.

Chris - - Parent

I've considered this before. I'm procrastinating, so time for some wildly inaccurate number crunching.

Throw height will be a limitation, which would be determined by force on a ball. This paper found that the highest force of an underarm throw of the Aligarh University cricket team was 4936 N. This is likely to be a huge overestimation for juggling, but as we are going for an absolute upper limit for numbers juggling, this will do.

Mass of the prop will be a limit, and a lighter ball will be able to go higher. The lightest ball that The Bag Lady makes is 58 g. A force of 4936 N on 58 g leads to an acceleration of 85 km/s^2. If accelerated through 30 cm, this leads to a launch velocity of 160 m/s (which leads to the ball being airborne for 32.6 s (holy shit)).

With an acceleration of 160 m/s, you could throw a ball 133 times per second (heh), meaning that the upper limit for ball juggling would be 4330 balls.

I reckon that might be a slight overestimation though...

peterbone - - Parent

I think you're failing to take several things into account. The weight of the arm is the main one, which is many times heavier than a ball. This is why simply reducing ball weight will only help to a point. It will also greatly reduce throw accuracy. Air resistance also has a greater affect on a lighter ball.

Chris - - Parent

*pssst* none of that is supposed to be taken seriously

peterbone - - Parent

Also, I don't see how you get 133 throws per second? You refer to 160 m/s as acceleration when you said previously that it's the launch velocity.

Mïark - - Parent

I think there is a difference between a cricket throw where you have several seconds to contemplate and build up to the throw,and juggling where you have a split second to decelerate the ball from almost the speed you launched it with and then throw it again.

Orinoco - - Parent

Regarding a limit to perceiving objects I don't think this needs to be considered, partly because of the reasons Peter states but also because I don't think you need to. When I juggle 7 balls I just try to line the balls up so the next ball follows (or improves upon) the trajectory of the one before, so I'm only ever thinking about two lines (one coming into each hand) rather than x number of props.

7b_wizard - - Parent

#numbers #limitsOfJuggling #holsters #multiplexing #FutureOfJuggling
answering the thread and recent peterbone's: " talking about pure numbers, then I think that the skill has now become pretty much limited by strength and physics rather than being limited by the mindset required to learn it. I don't think we'll be seeing a significantly higher level at the top in 20 years, but the average level may increase."
As little I know of >=9b-numbers, but by only figuring out how numbers juggling could be optimized, I believe, that some things haven't been tried yet:
a) let go of any sort of holsters, then someone who feels comfortable at passing might have an advantage, when they get the props fed - be it by a passing machine - or given into the hand in the precise way needed by an assistant?
b) dwell-time can be reduced by using rackets (which is uncommon way to juggle), e.g. squashballs with pingpong rackets, allowing for lower pattern with smaller distances between balls and small scoop?
c) I believe, a 12b-[9ab][22]2 can be done continously at the speed, height and feel of a 5b cascade?
.. all provided this is someone's speciality andor starts at young age ..
.. but maybe that's wishful thinking a lot :o)
I'm thinking of a level of juggling like in other top-sports where like Federer puts little weights to his racket, or swimmers wear sharkskin, .. lukeburrage uses wristweights(? -bands?), Gatto - I'm sure - is on perfection aswell with any util he uses, Ty Tojo has own grippy (sort of golfball-)design balls, stuff like that .. such things are maybe exotic and still rare and individually thought out .. and I don't know how many jugglers in the world are on such highest level, but I believe it is becoming more and there will be surprises.
Finally, I believe or that's the way I look upon it .. Juggling will always be 'open to the top' .. due to its complexity of possible combinations of skills ( + props + movements + gimmicks + new ideas + techniques + + + ) where not the mere number or difficulty of a siteswap only will determine the 'value' of juggling acts & performances. Thk 4 Ur attention! :o])

peterbone - - Parent

a) I personally don't count pure juggling records using holsters, so I definitely wouldn't count records using additional people or machines. If we're talking about using them simply as a training technique then maybe, but the launch is really the hard bit with numbers so I'm not sure you'd see much benefit.
b) That would be much harder. With no hold time you're unable to scoop to avoid collisions and are less able to make corrections. Aiming would be much harder. Also consider that with reduced dwell time there are more balls in the air at any one time and so more chances of collisions. You also have to solve the problem of how to start. The only benefit would be height with less effort, but with that comes more accuracy problems. Having said all that, I wouldn't count it anyway as an official record because I'd count it as an artificial aid.
c) 12b Multiplexing can't be compared to 12b non-multiplexing. They're completely different things. I don't consider multiplexing as a part of pure numbers juggling.

Using aids in tennis is different because the raquette is already an integral part of the game. I think of pure juggling as consisting of only the juggler and the props being juggled. Changes to the prop design is fine, but that can only take you so far and I think it's already close to optimal.

Regarding juggling as a performance, I do expect to see surprising innovations in the future.

Johnathan Mundell - - Parent

its alex barron vs dylan tweed.
Only thing is is alex still juggling??


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