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olympics   ...   random thoughts
sat 2004-aug-28 15:17:00 pdt   ...   permalink

So I watched some of the Olympics -- some gymnastics, some running, some diving, maybe a bit of other stuff, I forget what all...

Of what I watched, gymnastics was definitely the most interesting. They do some crazy incredible stuff these days. But they all get scores of at least 9.0, and I certainly can't really tell the difference between a 9.765 routine and a 9.812 routine, or whatever. Sure, anyone can see whether they stick the landing or not, but there's obviously a great deal of subtlety that you only get if you're really immersed in the field of gymnastics...

I guess my point is just that the fact that the scores are all so close (and so close to perfect) makes it hard to really get into the competition side of it. Of course I still enjoy watching the routines, basically just as performances.

Now, diving on the other hand, well, the scores actually seem to average about 5.0, ranging from maybe 2.0 or so all the way up to the occasional 8.5 or so. Also, maybe because they're just doing one thing at a time, and you're told the dive difficulty, it feels more accessible. Anyway, so the upshot is that I felt a bit more into the competition side of it than I did with the gymnastics.

The running events that I watched weren't really themselves all that exciting, though there were some interesting aspects to them. One interesting thing is the "photo finish" images they show so you can see the hundredth-of-a-second differences between different runners. Turns out (as I learned from this article), the reason the runners look distorted in those images is that it's not just a regular photo. Basically, each vertical slice of pixels comes from a particular moment in time, and the x-axis of the image corresponds to different times. So it's actually showing everyone, not at the same moment, but each at the moment they crossed the finish line. (And that's why there's a white background -- that's not put in there, that's just because the camera is aimed directly on the finish line, where the ground actually is in fact white.)

One interesting thing about generating an image like that is that if you were to cross the finish line in the other direction, you would appear to be going the same direction as everyone else in the generated image. But if you walk backwards across the line (actually walking in either direction), then you would appear to be going the opposite direction from everyone else. Kind of cool.

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