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The Scrivener: The Green Arrow

...that implies that at the age of about 58 we start our physical, emotional and intellectual cycles all over again. A sort of internal second birth without any religious connotations...

While waiting at the traffic lights Brian Barratt considers mathematical matters.

If I'd been industrious enough, and daft enough, to keep a log-book for 40 years, I would able to tell you precisely how often I have driven through a set of traffic lights at the crossing of two main roads close to where I live. Instead, I've done a rough but informed estimate. I have turned left out of my drive, then turned right into a short connecting street, left into one of those busy roads, and right at the lights, between 6,000 and 8,000 times.

Big deal, so what? I hear you mutter. Well, the point is this: I reckon there have been only two or three times when the green right-turn arrow was switched on. Every other time, I have had to wait for red to turn green. Sometimes I am the first in line; other times up to 6th in the queue. I don't listen to the radio in the car while I'm driving and I most certainly do not use a mobile phone in the car or anywhere else, so I have to find something useful to do while I wait. One must improve the shining hour, you know.

Have you noticed that the flashing indicators of cars waiting to turn always flash at different rates? If I have a clear view of two or more cars ahead of me, I watch them and hope I'll see them suddenly synchronise, that is, flash at exactly the same time. Just the once, before they revert to their intermittent pattern. This is particularly interesting when there are four or more cars. I suppose a mathematician, given the statistics, could work out how often per hour, or per day, they will synchronise. If they ever synchronise at all, that is. It's a bit like the monkeys + typewriters + Shakespeare problem, isn't it?

I am not a mathematician. The senior maths master at the grammar school I went to in my boyhood in England made sure of that. But I did experiment with another set of varying rhythms, several years ago, to see if they ever came back to the synchronous point at which they started.

People who study biorhythms, a pseudoscientific and less than proven or valid theory of biological science, believe that we have three internal metabolic cycles which rise and fall from the moment we are born. They can be shown as graphs rising and falling. The Physical cycle takes 23 days to come back to where it started. The Emotional cycle takes 28 days. The Intellectual cycle takes 33 days. Each cycle goes from up and down from the 'critical' centre point, touching 'high' and 'low' as it does so.

Therein lies an intriguing question. If they all start at the central critical point at the moment we are born, which is what the believers say, how long does it take for them all to coincide again exactly in unison at that point? As a non-mathematician, I did some figure-work. I forget the actual figure I worked out but I recall that it implied that the three biorhythms coincide for the second time just after our 58th birthday.

Pursuing the wobbly logic of the theory, that implies that at the age of about 58 we start our physical, emotional and intellectual cycles all over again. A sort of internal second birth without any religious connotations.

No, I think I'll just continue watching the flashing indicators of the cars in the queue at the traffic lights. And if, one day, the green right-turn arrow of the traffic light is on when I arrive at the turning point, and I can drive straight through without waiting or queuing, I'll invite you to the celebration party.

Copyright Brian Barratt 2012


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