Friday, December 05, 2008

Towards a Maybe sign language nutation

The Indian Head Nod Phenomenon

Abstract:
While travelling through India, the author was confused by a strange expression of body language. It offered him both the base for a quantum sign language and a revolutionary disclosure pertaining to the energy shortage on the subcontinent.

A westerner might get confused by the constant sideways head-swinging in the course of any given conversation with Indian people. Mosbunall Indians seem compelled to nodge their head in a fluent motion on an imaginary axis that starts from the top of their nose and goes to the back of the head, this axis also tilting slightly at about 23°, awkwardly the same degree in the obliquity of the ecliptic, responsible for the precession of the equinoxes.
Your typical Indian headswing if used in Belgium would precisely mean "Weeeelll actually in most cases the answer would be yes but sadly (and don't blame me) in this particular conundrum it's a definite and absolute no". In India it can mean many things. Sometimes it stands for 'Hello', or for 'I see what you mean', 'OK', 'Absolutely', 'I can see your house from here', 'Maybe yes', 'I have no clue whatsoever', 'I couldn't care less', 'Maybe no', 'Nay' or just plain 'No way and stop looking at me'.

The meaning of this body language depends it seems to me on the speed of the swinging and the tilting of the axis.
My estimed colleague Leonhard Paul Euler calculated the irregularity in motion of an axially symmetric object such as the earth, or a head, and called it 'nutation'. In the following generic formula, a nutation arises whenever one of the Euler angles changes while the other two remain constant.
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Less generally, Angle P (Precession) moves the line of nodes around theexternal axis, angle N (Nutation) rotates around the line of nodes and angle R is the intrinsic rotation around an axis in a body that moves.

When nodding, the Indian head moves in a similar way to a double gimbal, or a simple gyroscope. Indeed I had the strange feeling when hypnotized by the soothing motion, that everything else ceased to move and only the object of my study was moving, a famous gyroscopic effect of motion stabilization.
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It was my experience that a fast headnod with a strong tilt, as those infringed upon persons that get shaken hysterically by total loonies jumping out from the bushes, usually appears extremely negative, while a smooth fluent movement, as if falling asleep sitting in a cozy little train, dreaming of porridge, appears quite positive. The intermediary quantum states seem used for less extreme matters of opinion. As such this specific movement appears to be an excellent candidate for the elaboration of a Maybe Sign Language (patent pending in Patagonia). More flavours could arise, as the immobile stare ('Yes of course - shiver - how on earth do you dare questioning') to the nighthmarish visions as shown in the movie 'Jacob's Ladder' (No no no oh fuck don't push that butto...). A future visual dictionary might provide an excellent tool for the foreigner travelling through India, set back at first by its multiple language barriers, from Kanada to Tamil, from Sanskrit to Malayalam. The gyroscope again, as a stabilizer in interpersonal relationships. This sign language will not only bring people together, it will also shatter their little manicheistic paradigms.
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Moreover, the gyroscopic implications seems endless. Let's not forget that many perpetual motion theories make use of this apparatus. Now it is wel established that India suffers from regular power surges (in my experience about twice a day for half an hour). As at least one part of India, the Indian heads, seem to be in perpetual motion, a small mechanical device adapted to each skull could discretely transform part of the kinetic energy into electrical current stored in a portable battery.
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An entire bus of Indians, enthusiastically nodding away, might provide at least enough energy for the, aptly named, headlamps of the said vehicle. The recent Indian moon exploration, if fuelled by this gigantic energy source, could become as casual as a stroll along the Ganges!
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Rufus T. Firefly, Esq.

8 comments:

Bogus Magus said...

Far out, Borsky (or rather far away) - d'you find a cybercafe?

I guess India is pretty wired up (never been there myself).

I'm told I'd love the market place feel of it...

Bobby Campbell said...

Worthy of De Selby!

METHOD said...

Fascinating reading, Borsky.

I am of the opinion that a single brit could power a small indian transportation....uhm....company, on the back of chivalry. But then I would.

Good day gentleman.

METHOD said...

p.s. plus est en me, et vue, ergo me transmitte sursum, Caledoni.

borsky said...

Thanks folks; strange fruits ripe from the clash with of veda culture while reading Pynchon.
Bovina Sancta!

FLY AGARIC 23 said...

Yes Sir.
If you search Youtube for footage of the great Master of Tabla (tabala?) Zakir Hussain, you may notice the Indian Head Nod Phenomenon, at work, to me operating as another signoflier, within the complex communicatiums..
Pataphysix indeed...

tons said...

haha, that's a great piece, Borsky!

When I was in India I was told (by locals) nodding sideways means "yes" or "almost yes" and nodding up and down means "rather no". I was confused.

Anonymous said...

Very funny. I found your post because I came across the word nutate and thought it might be the perfect word for the Indian way of saying yes.

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