Monday, 25 January 2010

Is the mechanism of a reflex like the caching of the internet

Following on from my previous post I wanted to point out the similarities between the nervous infrastructure of our bodies and the network infrastructure of the internet and how they both increase speed of delivery and decision making.

For reflexes, such as returning a serve in tennis, what's happening is that your body will bypass most of it's processing systems and instead delegate control to nerve bundles closer to the areas directly involved in coordinating the necessary movements. This way the info takes the shortest and fastest route possible through the body to reach the unit that initiates and controls the work.

The signals coming from this unit are also sent directly to the necessary muscles and organs. They have high priority and no checking or processing is done in between. Again this makes sure everything is done as quickly as possible.

So the speed the information is passed around the system to get the result is maximised. The control unit is also designed to quickly turn the input info such as  speed, direction and spin of the ball into a strategy and a set of instructions of each part of the body to carry out. From a guess at where the ball will be in x ms time, to where the parts of the body need to be at that point.

This communication is not a one time thing. It's happening hundreds of times a second with split second timing.

Pretty impressive stuff.  The main benefits are reduced processing and communication time, this is acheieved by bringing the controlling unit(s) closer to the senses, muscles and other organs doing the work thus reducing the input of the distant brain and spinal cord. Basically it's a process of effective delegation. The effectiveness of local delegation will be related to effects mentioned in my previous post.

When it comes to the web we see a similar structure. We may request a page from a web site half way round the globe. The first time this happens we have to wait a while for everything to download because it's actually being pulled from half way round the world. Our browser is constantly communicating in the background with a web server which is working with other servers to gather the info you need. They're all constantly talking to each other across vast distances. This is why it takes so long.

The next time some one makes the same request to the server rmembers exactly where to check for latest info. It stores a copy of the previous request and checks if anything has changed. The network now knows the fastest route between the servers. So decisions get made faster and communication is faster too. If there isn't much change then the page isn't fetched from across the web. Instead the server your browser asked first send it's stored copy to your browser. This enhanced process means you see the page load maybe 10 times faster. All because the process is designed for effective delegation to local decision makers.

I know the systems aren't exactly the same but I hope you can see how remarkably similar they are. I hope it gives you confidence that some insights you have in one area of life might be able to teach you something about how your body works. From that you might see how to use it better and have more fun.

Post a Comment