Monday, September 19, 2011

Scaling: Poor Man's Shuriken

Scaling? Are we talking about the lame geometric transformation with shapes? Unless transforming shapes to larger or smaller similar shapes is related to throwing playing cards up to 148 km/h , then no, we aren't. Scaling or better known as card throwing, is the art of throwing standard playing cards. You don't need to dish out a million bucks to buy solid steel ninja stars to throw at your nemesis, all you need is a pack of cards.

The exact origin of card throwing is relatively unknown. However, western card throwing can be traced back to the late 19th century by magicians on stage. It was first made famous by Alexander Herrman and Howard Thurston in their stage performances during their time. Considering that they used heavier cards back in the day compared to modern playing cards and that their techniques are still be used and changed to this day, they can probably be considered the fathers of card throwing. 

You know he's awesome when his little demons whisper unkind things into his ears.

Card throwing involves taking a card and propelling it at high speeds with simply the arm, no mirrors or wires. The farthest a throwing card has ever been thrown is 216 feet and 4 inches at 92 miles per hour by Rick Smith Jr. Today, you can find hundreds of videos teaching and showing card throwing all over the internet. It wouldn't be difficult to find videos of people throwing cards into apples, bananas, and even celery sticks.

He's smiling because he knows he's awesome.

Before you go outside, buy a deck of cards and discover that throwing cards more than two feet is difficult, hear me out. Many people may find it implausible for a card to fly such large distances and slice fruits with such papery brittleness. How card throwing works isn't how directly linked to how hard you throw the card, it's how much spin you put into the card. It's not like those cartoons where animators are too lazy to draw spinning cards and end up drawing simple cards flying directly straight.

We can safely assume that this comic book character doesn't exist.

All of the techniques related to throwing cards have "the flick of the wrist" related to the power of the throw. The "Herrman" grip and the "Thurston" grip are two "pivot" point in which the card spins around. Following the principals of card throwing, anyone can technically throw cards.

Since playing cards are generally legal everywhere, it's a easier hobby to show people to oppose to carrying ninja stars everywhere. But that doesn't mean they're going to be killing anyone any time soon. Throwing cards expert Ricky Jay (Previous world record holder for longest card throw) appeared on Mythbusters to prove or disprove that cards can be thrown fast enough to puncture human skin. The experiments proved that it wasn't humanly possible, Ricky Jay himself wasn't able to puncture the skin of a human substitute, a hung pig. After that, they tried building a machine to go beyond human limits to see if it was in the grasp of reality, the results shown that even a machine couldn't puncture or cut the human substitute.

"I do not approve."

Before we throw in the towel, allow usto remind us that Mythbusters isn't renown for their amazing scientific abilities. Speculation around how they preform experiments have arised, which may give us light at the end of the tunnel. The machine built to throw the card could throw it harder than any human could in the world. But, the physics behind the thrown card is the spin, the Mythbusters concentrated on throwing the card as hard as possible, with relative spin. As you can see for yourself, taking a card and trying to stab an apple isn't going to get you anywhere, when thrown properly however, you can slice the apple to the core.

If you look at real-life card throwers, we can also see that their arms don't simply move along a "X-axis". Their arms and hands curve in specific ways that allow the card to be thrown beyond normal distances. Robots simply can't replicate that in such a short amount of development time.

Right. Right.