Here is the thought experiment.
Imagine a context-free demonstration of someone rolling objects. One way to do this would be to use abstract shapes in a neutral environment, as pure demonstration with no music or performing or explanation or anything at all. Most importantly, don’t tell them they are going to be judging if something is juggling or not.
Show them three conical objects rolling around in a circle, with a machine in the middle pushing them so they don’t stop rolling.
Now ask them “what is going on here?” or “what word would you use to describe this activity?”
Repeat 1,000 times with 1,000 different people.
Next step. Repeat the exact same experiment but have the three conical objects flying through the air in a circle, and the machine catching them and redirecting them upwards again.
When you ask them “what is going on here?”, what word would you think will say?
There are a few more steps after this, but first…
A lot of the examples I’ve been trying to find of rolling juggling and pendulum juggling seem to have a lot in common with physics demonstrations. For example, Greg Kennedy’s Hemisphere brings to mind something like this:
“Gravity Visualized” even has a moment where Dan Burns throws in four balls, and they roll very much like one of the patterns Greg Kennedy does in Hemisphere. It’s a different shape but the visual effect is very similar. Looking through the comments on the video I found a depressing number of flat-earth gravity deniers (groan) but no mention of juggling. Of course no juggling comments, right? Because he doesn’t catch the rolling balls again, they all just drop to the middle of the gravity well. Sure.
Over in the comments section of Hemisphere, one of the 18 comments is “A beauiful demonstration of the Law of Conservation of Momentum. Have you considered using your talent to teach childeren Science?” I find it interesting that even under a video of a juggler performing a juggling routine at a juggling convention and winning the gold medal in a juggling competition… even after all that, someone sees this and thinks “physics lessons!”
So here is the question: at what point does an activity change from being a physics demonstration to a juggling routine?
Beyond the performance context, what is the difference between this:
In showing some of these videos to Juliane, we came up with the idea that a static demonstration of rolling objects or swinging pendulums is NOT juggling, despite objects rolling or swinging in a set pattern that is analogous to a juggling pattern, and despite a person initiating or controlling the pattern.
What makes it juggling is the redirecting of objects to new and different paths. It’s the transition between different patterns. One object traveling one path isn’t enough, even if it repeats the path due to the person putting more energy into the roll or swing. Many objects following the same path isn’t enough either. Juggling begins only when the rolled or swung balls change motion or patterns due to the intervention of the person doing the rolling or swinging.
Next step: what is the difference between poi swinging and making patterns with weights on pendulum?
Our conclusion is that there is a physics frame of reference that has, in the case of poi swinging and yo-yo, the person’s hand or body at the centre. The poi is being controlled via the string by the movement of the pivot point of the object’s motion.
In the case of pendulum juggling, the pivot point is outside of the body of the juggler, attached to a fixed point. This means that, once the object is released, no forces internal to the juggler can influence the path of the object through the air. The fixed point for the rolling or pendulum is attached to the centre of the earth. Long story short, getting past air friction and stuff, it’s gravity. The change of direction becomes between the catch and the release.
Anyway, this discussion makes me conclude that there is different point at which an activity naturally or instinctively has the word “juggling” attached to it both in my mind and the minds of non-jugglers.
For objects released into the air unsupported and caught again, the line is an object being released and caught multiple times by the same person within the same frame of activity. By that I mean the repeated release and catch has to happen before any long period of sustained holding of the object or long period where the object isn’t being controlled by the person, be it either laying motionless or in motion.
For objects not released unsupported into the air (e.g. swung or rolled or floated or held by someone else), but still released from direct control, then mere repetition of release and catch isn’t enough. Then the line where people start considering it juggling is less about the repetition but the change in an already repeating pattern and direction of the motion created. If there is no change over time, people default to science experiment or physics demonstration.
For objects released from the hands but supported by the same person in non-hand places, like in the case of ring placements (Jay Gilligan style) or hat placements (Lorenzo style) there is a line where people would switch from saying “making holding objects look difficult” to “juggling”. I think the line is beyond “moving ring/hat from placement to trap to hang to hold in a single pattern” and into the territory of “development and change of placement pattern over time”.
For objects not released into the air unsupported and kept under direct control of the person for the duration? For myself and from all my investigation into how people use the word juggling, this doesn’t cross the line. In all these cases it seems to be that “spinning” or “twirling” or “swinging” seem to be the default go-to term.
I guess the logical test would be to have someone who has never seen yo-yo before, and doesn’t know the name for it, but has seen juggling and knows that word. Seeing a 1A or 2A yo-yo routine, my hunch is that many more would say “swinging” or “spinning” or “throwing” than “juggling”. But who knows?