The stick man and his bike

There once was a stick man who lived in a land of black and white shapes. Sticks and circles, put together by the Designer and Programmer and used by the Player. As the stick man walked along his white background, oblivious of the third dimension on his flat space, the Designer and Programmer made the stick man’s world more complicated, by adding –what to the common observer like you and I—might look like a mountain range. What was odd about the mountain range though was that it satisfied relationships between the shapes, sticks and circles common in pure mathematics and simple geometry. But they did not reflect how our mountain ranges look. Our mountain ranges are not reducible to mathematical relationships, though they can be approximated. Our mountain ranges cannot be reduced to mathematical relationships because our mountain ranges laugh. They also cry out, but that is for another time.

The stick man did not know any of this. The stick man, lived in a land of black and white shapes, sticks and circles put together by the Designer and Programmer for the Player. So as he walked along and started to climb these mathematically simple and geometrically pleasing mountains the stick man could only move left or right and as he needed to, up or down. He was not able to move deeper into the mountain range (other than by moving left or right) because there simply was no depth to the range, which was black and white, just like the stick man.

After some time of moving left and right, or up and down, the Designer and Programmer decided that the stick man should be able to move faster. The stick man didn’t know what speed was, because he could only walk in one speed, putting one stick leg in front of the other, moving one stick hand from left to right, whilst moving the other hand right to left, keeping his body strait and his head upright. To make it so that the stick man could go at different speeds it was necessary to change the physics of the black and white landscape. Because the stick man was black and white and because the mountain range was made of bent sticks and straightened out semi-circles which were also black and white, the Designer drew a bike, which the Programmer encoded in the stick mans black and white world. As I said, the stick man did not know that there where more speeds to travel through the mountain range at, but he did know very intimately a world that is black and white, with geometrically pleasing shapes which look to us like mountains. He was going to be surprised.

Once he got to the top of a mountain range, he spotted something new. It was a stick man bike. In fact it was this stick mans bike. Tentatively moving towards the bike (at the same speed he always moved at, but nevertheless tentatively), he came close to this geometrically pleasing and mathematically simple piece of new kit. Moving one hand to the right while moving the other to the left, and putting one stick leg in front of the other, placing one stick hand on the handle (there is only one handlebar in a stick man bike) and bending one stick leg and placing that on one of the pedals (there are two of these), he moved forward, placing his other leg on the other black pedal. Then he sat down on his black, stick man bike and placed his other hand on the black stick man handlebar. He was also given a black and white stick man cap. Now he was no longer an ordinary black and white stick man. No, now he was a black and white stick man BMX biker. Or that is what it seemed to the Player.

Because the black and white stick man world is a world of black and white shapes, with mountain ranges that are geometrically pleasing and mathematically simple, the stick man did not need to balance his bike. In addition to being black and white the shapes also did not have any depth, so the bike was always going to stand up straight, just like the stick man. Unless the physics of his body stopped working properly, as the Programmer was want to remind the Designer, who thought that might be something to incorporate into the flat, black and white world of the stick man, BMX rider.

Stick man peddled his black bike and soon realized that he could travel faster if he moved the pedals faster, though it was not his legs which where moving faster. The black circles, representing the tires of the black and white stick man bike, seemed to turn, which propelled the bike forward. The black bike circles also gave the black and white stick man a new sensation, which was inherent n the physics designed by the Designer and implemented by the Programmer. It was one of flexibility, or bounce, a very new sensation in a black and white world, with simple geometry and pleasing mathematics.

But there was obviously no bounce in the mountain range. Their physics was hard, though the Player would not know if the physics of the mountain range or the physics of the bike where what made the bike bounce. He was to learn that a little later. The other thing that the stick man had to learn about was balance (but not as we think about it). Because he was moving faster than when he walked the black and white mountain ranges, and because the axis of the bike was in the centre he had to get used to tilting his new black bike, back and forward.

If he built up enough speed going down a particularly pleasing black and white mountain side shaped in a semicircle, he could even get the bike to turn in a full circle, giving him the sensation that the black and white world he was in spun around. This sometimes caused his world to go gray, also a new sensation. He once did this but did not land on his black tires. That is when the Player realized that what is in fact bouncy, in this black and white world of shapes, created from sticks and semi circles are the physics of the tires, not the mountain range. The stick man also experienced, for the first time, the collapse of his own physics, which did not give a pleasing feeling to the Player, who was trying to complete the task of the Designer and Programmer. It was certainly also very grey for the stick man. It was confusing to the stick man for his head to be where his legs and hands where, in this black and white world where most of the shapes are geometrically pleasing and mathematically simple, up until the stick man looses his physics and the mountain range cries out.

If you want to join the Player, and even take part in some parts of what the Designer does, you can. It’s simple. Just click here.

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