Juggling: What the Heck

Josh: Josh Clark

Chuck: Charles W. "Chuck" Bryant

Vo: Voiceover Speaker

Vo: Welcome to Stuff You Should Know from HowStuffWorks.com.


Josh: Hey, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh Clark. There's Charles W. "Chuck" Bryant. There's Jeri. Just doing a little tandem juggling with my bro. That's what we're doing right now.

Chuck: Yeah, man.

Josh: Wish you guys could see this, because we've gotten pretty good.

Chuck: Cascade right now. Yeah.

Josh: Look at this half shower, half shower.

Chuck: Yeah. Half shower. Man, that was a good one, bro.

Josh: Seventeen balls at once.

Chuck: Yeah. Jeri, come and light these torches on fire. Wow.

Josh: Man.

Chuck: Half shower of rain and fire.

Josh: This is really dangerous. Ta da.

Chuck: Can you juggle?

Josh: No, but I want to after this.

Chuck: My brother learned, of course.

Josh: Of course. I'm sure he was born knowing how to juggle.

Chuck: Yeah. He came out of the womb juggling.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: No, he learned back, like, in high school and mastered it pretty quickly. And he can still juggle some. I think it's one of those things where once you learn sort of the basics, you can always do it.

Josh: Because apparently a lot of it comes down to muscle memory, which is to say motor memory.

Chuck: Yeah. And in true Chuck fashion, I tried to learn to juggle for about an hour and never finished.

Josh: Did you see any progress over that hour?

Chuck: Yeah. I could do the little one-hand juggling two balls with one hand thing okay. But I did a lot of chasing the ball.

Josh: That's a problem.

Chuck: Which, apparently, if you're a beginning juggler, you're going to be throwing the ball further and further away from you, just naturally.

Josh: Chasing the ball.

Chuck: And they call it chasing it. So what do they suggest?

Josh: They suggest that you learn to juggle close to and facing a wall, because that way, you can't move forward.

Chuck: Or you'll just keep hitting your head.

Josh: You'll scratch your face up on the brick.

Chuck: And quit juggling. This is a Jonathan Strickland joint of tech stuff.

Josh: It reeks of Strickland.

Chuck: It does.

Josh: Like, even if the byline hadn't been on there, I would have been like, "This is Strickland." But I remember when this one was made. It was like right when I got here, and he-there was a video embedded of Strickland teaching you how to juggle.

Chuck: Yeah. It reeks of bald head cream and bowling shirts.

Josh: Yeah. And it also has an illustration by Marcus, who clearly always wanted to be a comic book illustrator, because the guy who's in the graph on how to juggle is just totally ripped. Like a comic book hero.

Chuck: I remember Marcus. That seems like a million years ago.

Josh: It was.

Chuck: So, juggling history. How long have people been juggling?

Josh: Chuck, people have been juggling since at least 1994 BCE.

Chuck: Exactly. They found in Egyptian tombs hieroglyphics showing women toss juggling, and there are many kinds of juggling, by the way, and we're mainly going to talk about toss juggling, which is throwing something up in the air. Throwing more things up in the air than you have hands.

Josh: Yes. That's toss juggling. There are, like you said, a bunch of other kinds. But if you're a toss juggler, you probably don't consider the other kinds real juggling. You're like, "Those are cool and everything, but that's not real juggling."

Chuck: Yeah, I asked our friend Brandon Ross from the Stuff You Should Know art department-

Josh: Clearly a juggler.

Chuck: Very good juggler. And I sent a message to him and did not hear back in time. I was like, "It says in here that modern jugglers pooh-pooh things like taking a bite out of the apple and some of those old-school tricks."

Josh: That's pretty cool, if you ask me.

Chuck: I was like, "Is that true or not?" And I didn't hear back from him.

Josh: Just crickets.

Chuck: Well, you know, it was on Facebook.

Josh: Oh, okay.

Chuck: So he'll get to it when he gets to it. So anyway, we're in ancient Egypt.

Josh: 1994 BCE, to be exact.

Chuck: That's right. There were jugglers in Greece and Rome and India and Thebes and Thebes in Europe. And I think 400 BCE was when it was actually written down that people were juggling.

Josh: Yeah. Supposedly in the Talmud, a rabbi named Shimon ben Gamliel-I think I probably nailed that.

Chuck: Probably.

Josh: He could juggle eight torches at once.

Chuck: That's hard to believe, because world records today are, like, seven.

Josh: I think for clubs-is it seven?

Chuck: I think so. But, I mean, if this rabbi was juggling eight torches, that sounds like it may be pumped up a little bit throughout the years. You know, it was two, and then it was, like, "Oy, it was eight."

Josh: Although this was the time of miracles, you know. Enough oil to keep going for eight days during a siege. Why not a rabbi who could juggle eight torches? It seems kind of paltry by comparison.

Chuck: Good point. Through the Roman era, apparently, jugglers were actually held in high esteem, but then they kind of went down into the pooper a little bit.

Josh: Which is hilarious.

Chuck: Because people associated them with, like, magicians as con artists. So I don't know if it was like, "Hey, look at what this guy's doing!" while someone else is picking their pocket. But that's kind of what seems like might have been going on.

Josh: Yeah. Apparently, you were a con artist, like you said.

Chuck: Sure.

Josh: Everybody knows that you can't trust a juggler.

Chuck: A Juggalo.

Josh: Right. At the time, that's how people thought of jugglers. This seems to be during the Holy Roman Empire in the West, right? Then the medieval era hits, and suddenly jugglers start to become a little less threatening, and actually a little more clown like. Initially, they seemed to have been not revered, necessarily, but thought of in fairly high esteem. Then they went the opposite direction, and then they came back as clowns.

Chuck: Right. I wonder how many, behind closed doors, emperors and kings tried it out after seeing it in the court and were just, like, morons with it.

Josh: Yeah. And then had someone's head chopped off out of frustration.

Chuck: Yeah. They took the Chuck route, although I didn't behead anybody.

Josh: But yeah, during the medieval era, if you found a juggler, you probably also found something of a minstrel or performer, an all-around entertainer, who probably traveled from town to town, maybe asking people to bring out their dead for some side work.

Chuck: Perhaps.

Josh: And then juggling corpses.

Chuck: That's right.

Josh: Which must have been a sight to see.

Chuck: And then in the 1700s, they became more of a circus act, and in the late 1800s and 1900s, vaudeville came along, and of course any sort of skill like that was big in vaudeville. And I did not know this, but W.C. Fields was a juggler in the vaudevillian days.

Josh: I didn't know that either.

Chuck: Before he became just a drunk actor.

Josh: And he's not the one who raped anybody, right? Who was it?

Chuck: I think that was Fatty Arbuckle.

Josh: Fatty Arbuckle. That's who it was.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Same era, same guys. I looked it up, and I ran across the Hollywood Hell Club. So apparently, before the brat pack, before the rat pack, there was a group of, like, early, early Hollywood guys-

Chuck: Other white dudes.

Josh: -including Errol Flynn, who was a rapist, W.C. Fields, John Barrymore. That just raised hell in Hollywood in, like, the '20s.

Chuck: Errol Flynn was a rapist?

Josh: Uh-huh.

Chuck: Really?

Josh: Accused rapist.

Chuck: I didn't know that. So then vaudeville declines. Circuses sort of decline a little bit for a while. And then jugglers started hitting the streets, or as Jonathan Strickland said, "Or become mathematicians."

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: We'll get to the math connection, which is legit.

Josh: It's foreshadowing.

Chuck: But I don't know that they formed their own stage shows, performed on street corners, or became mathematicians. Those were the three options, if you were a juggler. And then, of course, in the 1940s-I say "of course" because it's common knowledge that these are when the juggling groups and conventions were formed and held. The International Brotherhood of Magicians decided at a meeting, "Hey, guys"-the jugglers got together and had a few drinks and said, "I don't like being known as a magician."

Josh: Yeah. That's how the jugglers tell it. The magicians were like, "Get thee out, jugglers."

Chuck: Is that what it was?

Josh: Poof.

Chuck: Yeah. And then they, what, threw down their smoke bomb and they were gone?

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: So they splintered off and formed the International Juggling Association, and in 1969, they started holding championships and competitions.

Josh: Summer of juggling.

Chuck: And in 2000, Jason Garfield, a very famous juggler, formed the World Juggling Federation and said, "ESPN, you need to put this stuff on TV." So once a year, they put it on TV.

Josh: Progress.

Chuck: Along with the spelling bee and the dart competition.

Josh: What else?

Chuck: Which I watched the other day.

Josh: Logrolling?

Chuck: Yeah. Lumberjacking. Sure.

Josh: Lawn-darting?

Chuck: No.

Josh: That's illegal.

Chuck: No more.

Josh: That's like cockfighting.

Chuck: So all right. Let's get into it, then.

Josh: So we're actually going to teach everybody how to juggle. Like, no kidding.

Chuck: Yeah. And if you're really into this, we're going to describe a lot of things visually, which is always a train wreck for us. So I would recommend you do like I did and just get on the old YouTube and look up what cascade juggling looks like. And there are four or five guys who have tons and tons of videos.

Josh: There's one guy that I believe is kind of the gold standard for YouTube instructional juggling videos. His name is Adam Shomsky, S-H-O-M-S-K-Y.

Chuck: I'm sure I watched him.

Josh: That guy pops it into slow motion for you.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: There's graphics. When he throws something straight up, you might not have caught it, so it says, "Thrown straight up." He's good. And he's just doing it for the love of juggling. You can tell.

Chuck: I think they all do.

Josh: I would hope so.

Chuck: I don't know if you make a ton of money as a juggler these days.

Josh: Or fame.

Chuck: Although I should recommend-I was going to wait till the end. There's a great article on Grantland.com called "Dropped," by Jason Fagone. And he details a big long story on Anthony Gatto, who may be the best juggler on the planet. He juggled for Cirque du Soleil.

Josh: Oh, he had a bunch of the records until recently.

Chuck: Yeah. Twelve world records. And he's amazing, dude. But he quit last year to run a concrete resurfacing business after becoming disenchanted with the juggling scene. Basically, calling out all these kids these days, saying, "You film something 100 times and only nail it once and then you upload it to YouTube. That's not the same." He basically-his quote is, "If you can't do a trick in three tries, you can't do it." He said, "You may have done it, but it doesn't mean you can do it."

Josh: It's essentially what you're talking about, this guy's story, is the premise for Office Space.

Chuck: Yeah. Basically. But he's amazing, and if you watch Anthony Gatto juggling, like, he will break the record for, let's say, number of balls in a rain shower, for the amount of time, though. He won't do it for ten seconds. He'll do it for ten minutes.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: And other jugglers are like, "This dude is insane. How long he can keep all these clubs and balls and torches or whatever in the air."

Josh: That's really funny that you mention him and what happened to him, because I noticed his records were all mid 2000s. The most recent ones were. And I wondered what happened to Anthony Gatto, now I know.

Chuck: He gave the finger. It's a really good article, actually.

Josh: That's neat.

Chuck: "Dropped" on Grantland.com. All right. So how do you juggle?

Josh: So, Chuck, here's how you juggle. Basically, you want to start with three balls, and if you have even half of a brain, half, you will make sure that those balls are beanbags, because beanbags are dead drops. They drop dead.

Chuck: You're not going to chase them all over the room.

Josh: No. When they fall, they just stay put.

Chuck: Yeah. Hacky sacks are good, too. Or you can buy, like my brother did, which are basically hacky sacks, the little juggling kit.

Josh: Yeah. The complete klutz's guide to juggling, isn't that-

Chuck: I don't know. I'm sure there are many.

Josh: I think it was before the Complete Idiot's Guides. There was something called, like, something for klutzes, and it would teach you things, how to juggle and stuff like that.

Chuck: That required dexterity?

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Interesting.

Josh: So anyway, you start with three beanbags, which in the juggling world, what these are, anything you juggle are called props. And specifically, a beanbag falls under the category of balls. Even though they're not necessarily balls, they're still under the prop category of balls.

Chuck: Because it's not a chainsaw or a torch or a club.

Josh: Exactly. Which would fall under the category of clubs.

Chuck: Right.

Josh: So for most of the time, we're going to say balls, but just imagine as you're starting out, we're talking about beanbags, okay?

Chuck: Okay.

Josh: So you get three of them, Chuck.

Chuck: Yes.

Josh: You take two, and you put them in a drawer to start. That is the first step to learning juggling. Take two of your three balls and put them away.

Chuck: Yeah. And Strickland and experts say you should literally start with tossing one back and forth to get your arc down, because the key is consistency. You don't want to-and once you get good, you can do all sorts of things, but you don't want to toss one beanbag up four feet and one three feet. When you're first starting out, you want to kind of toss them all about the same.

Josh: Yeah. And you need to learn your hand movements, which are very important.

Chuck: Sure.

Josh: Once you get hand movements down, you can do variations on the hand movements. But ultimately, there's a basic hand movement that's a scooping motion, and the easiest one to start with, to start practicing, is the cascade pattern.

Chuck: Yeah. There's two main patterns, the shower and the cascade, which we've joked about so far about ten times. The shower is the one that you see on cartoons, when someone's basically just throwing balls in a big circle, in a big loop.

Josh: Beautiful.

Chuck: Beautiful. Very cool looking.

Josh: And cascade looks kind of like fireworks, if you, like, squint your eyes and use your imagination.

Chuck: Yeah. Never thought about that.

Josh: Yeah. Like, as the balls go up and they arc out, they're basically arcing outward, across your body, and it looks just kind of like one of those big fireworks, where it blows up and then just kind of trails downward slowly. That's ultimately what it looks like to me.

Chuck: Yeah. I get that. So the cascade, you move your hands in a figure eight and for the regular cascade, your right hand goes clockwise, your left hand is counterclockwise, alternating these tosses. If you reverse that, it's called a reverse cascade.

Josh: Right. So the key here, just remember, you're using one ball, still, but you're making a scooping motion in towards your torso. Like, in towards yourself. Not away from your body, but in toward your body, right? In front of your chest. Your feet are shoulder width apart, because they always should be.

Chuck: When you do anything.

Josh: And you're tossing the thing up into an arc, in about-just above eye level. That's the one that you start with. And you usually start with your dominant hand.

Chuck: Yeah. Because that'll just probably be easier because you're more used to throwing things with that hand.

Josh: Right. And I didn't see it anywhere, but I put two and two together in this article, and it looks like-so I could be wrong, everybody, but it looks like if you are doing a cascade of any kind, reverse cascade, anything like that, whatever hand is going clockwise is the hand that you throw in the highest arc above your eye level. Okay. So you've got your one bag and you make a scooping motion with your right hand in a clockwise motion, and you toss the ball in an arc, just above eye level. And then it drops and you catch it in your left hand. And then now, in your left hand, you toss it again, but this one should be slightly under the arc of the first one. It's moving in a counterclockwise motion, so that eventually when you add more balls and you have them all in the air, they're not just bumping into each other at the same place. The one from your clockwise motion hand is going higher, and the one from your counterclockwise motion hand is following just beneath the arc of the first ball.

Chuck: That's right. It's inside that ball's path.

Josh: Yes.

Chuck: And you're going to, at first, be very frustrated because you're going to want to throw both of the balls at the same time, when you're just starting out with the two, just to get used to the motion, because it's just sort of like if you've never played drums, it's hard to make your right arm, your left arm, your right foot, and your left foot do different things. It's a bit of a brain trick. I think some people catch on quicker than others, obviously. But you want the two tosses to be distinct and separate.

Josh: And one way to do this, Strickland says, is to count your toss. Like, toss one, toss two, toss one, toss two.

Chuck: And then your little brother is going to say, "What are you doing in there? Shut up." "Nothing." Toss one, toss two.

Josh: Right. So we might as well add the second ball now. Are you ready?

Chuck: Have we just been with one ball?

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Oh, wow.

Josh: Because that toss one is with your clockwise hand. Toss two is with your counterclockwise hand. You catch the second one, your toss two, with your clockwise hand. Toss one, toss two. You're still just with one ball here. Now we're going to add two.

Chuck: Okay.

Josh: So you have one in your left hand, you have one in your right. We're doing a cascade, so with your right hand, you're making a clockwise scooping motion. Right?

Chuck: Yes.

Josh: [WHISTLES] Right?

Chuck: Uh-huh.

Josh: [WHISTLES] Yeah, I got it right.

Chuck: [LAUGHS] I wish people could see this one. This is delightful.

Josh: So we're going to throw the first ball, and as it reaches its zenith just above our eyes, we're going to throw the second one, just underneath the arc of the first one.

Chuck: Yeah. You know what's funny is that people that were walking by my desk all day saw me doing the same thing. Because you kind of do it to yourself to be like, "Okay, I get the motion."

Josh: Yeah. Like, "What is Strickland saying here?"

Chuck: And we were using no beanbags.

Josh: No. Just imaginary ones.

Chuck: Exactly.

Josh: I didn't drop a single one.

Chuck: I'm a great imaginary juggler.

Josh: So Chuck, with this toss one, toss two, ultimately what you're doing is-let's say it takes a second for you to throw one ball to your other hand. You throw the second ball at about the halfway mark of that first throw. So every half second, you're throwing a ball.

Chuck: Is that the deal?

Josh: If you're fast, you are. Ultimately, you're doing that. But it doesn't even necessarily have to be a second. Let's say it takes two seconds for it to go up and then down. So every second, you're throwing. Every half of whatever beat it takes for the ball to be tossed and then come down, you're throwing a ball. Okay?

Chuck: Okay.

Josh: Which means that when you finally add the third ball in there-

Chuck: Whoa.

Josh: -you can-which let's go ahead and do that now.

Chuck: Yeah. You want to hold two balls in one hand, obviously. And they suggest to hold the two in the dominant hand, although if you're having a problem making that third toss, they say sometimes switch it up and it may help, to hold the two in the non-dominant hand to begin with.

Josh: Yeah. Because some people just want to hold one and you're really just throwing two, with another one in your hand. Or else you're throwing one and then two at once, which you don't want to do, either.

Chuck: Yeah, you're going to be frustrated. It takes a lot of time and practice. Don't give up like I did when you didn't master it in one hour.

Josh: Right. If you think that you're supposed to be mastering this as we're speaking, no.

Chuck: No. Juggling is not for you.

Josh: We just covered, like, six months of work.

Chuck: But what you can master in a minute, though, is just clicking on YouTube and watching videos of jugglers.

Josh: Again, I'm almost done.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: So with this cascade, you've got the third ball. And just remember that every half of a beat that it takes, you're throwing a ball. So you're constantly throwing a ball. The cool thing about the third one is when you start with two balls in one hand, you obviously start with that hand for tossing. You toss it up in the air. As that one arcs, you toss your left one. As that one arcs, you toss your third one. And about the time you're tossing your third one, your first one's landing.

Chuck: That's right.

Josh: And you have just done what's called a flash of juggling.

Chuck: That's right. And if you have trouble catching at first, don't worry about it. They recommend just work on the tossing, and if you drop the ball, it's not a big deal at first. You just want to get that hand motion down and learn basically the motion of the cascade. And again, stand in front of a wall, because you're going to find yourself chasing the beanbag forward, because you're tossing it further away from you.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: But be careful.

Josh: Don't start with chainsaws.

Chuck: Don't start with chainsaws.

Josh: Which, by the way, are modified. They're props. They're not using real chainsaws unless you're crazy.

Chuck: Well, they probably don't have the thing.

Josh: Bam.

Chuck: They're like the haunted house chainsaws.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: All right. Well, after this break, we are going to get into variations on the cascade.


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Chuck: All right, Josh. You've got the cascade down. Try the reverse cascade, which is, like I said, just the opposite direction: counterclockwise for your right hand, clockwise for your left. You're scooping your hands inward instead of outward.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: Oh, I'm sorry. You're scooping outward instead of inward.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: Which sounds weird, but if you just do, without balls, your hands like that, it makes sense.

Josh: Yeah. You can just kind of do it in your imagination, and then just change directions.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: And you're doing it in reverse.

Chuck: And you're like, "Wait a minute. I've seen guys like that."

Josh: Right.

Chuck: It will feel like natural.

Josh: Yeah. The only big differences here is the hand that you throw in a higher arc has changed, so your first throw is going to be at a lower arc than the second throw. That's all.

Chuck: Okay.

Josh: And your hands are moving in different directions. But remember, the hand that's going in counterclockwise motion throws in the higher arc, and that's called Josh's law.

Chuck: Okay. So while you-after you have mastered this, which will take a while, as we've said 150 times, you can start doing little tricks thrown in there, because just a regular juggler isn't going to get very far in life. Where you really make your dough is when you start throwing in things like the half shower or the tennis move. And if you look all these up, basically, when you see jugglers just juggling regular, and then their arm does something crazy-looking, that's what these moves are. Like, we could describe them in detail, but it's really a lot cooler if you just go look. But when you're watching a juggler and you go, "Oh, man, what was that? Look what that girl just did with her arm!" that was maybe a tennis move or Mills Mess, invented by juggler Steve Mills, not my uncle Steve Mills. I don't think he can juggle. Or Burke's Barrage or Reubenstein's Revenge.

Josh: Pretty cool stuff.

Chuck: Yeah. These are all just complex arm-crossing patterns as you're juggling, different variations on that.

Josh: Another variation that I like-have you seen this before, bounce juggling?

Chuck: It's my favorite thing.

Josh: Rather than throwing balls up-

Chuck: Not my favorite thing. My favorite juggling thing.

Josh: Okay. Gotcha.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Rather than throwing the balls up in the air to toss juggle, you throw the balls down on the ground and bounce them for juggling.

Chuck: It's so awesome.

Josh: There's this kid I saw on You Tube. If you just search "bounce juggling," it's the first video. It's the thing, the first thing that comes up on YouTube.

Chuck: I watched that kid.

Josh: That guy's good.

Chuck: He starts out in profile.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: And you're like, "What's the big deal?"

Josh: In his basement or whatever.

Chuck: Yeah. But then once he-I don't know how many balls he had going.

Josh: He had quite a few.

Chuck: Yeah. And there's different ways of doing this. You can either lift bounce it by just sort of tossing it in the air and letting it bounce, or you can actually throw it at the ground, which is called a force bounce.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: And I even wrote, "Coolest!" with exclamation point.

Josh: Two of them.

Chuck: Bounce juggling is really cool-looking. There's clawing, which is basically palms-down juggling, so it's just the regular cascade, but-

Josh: Yeah. You're snatching them out of the air, it looks like.

Chuck: Yeah. And that's cool-looking. You can do that solely, or you can just throw in a claw every now and then, just to delight your nieces and nephews at Christmas.

Josh: There is the chop.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: I think this one is where you grab a ball and then throw it underneath your other arm. You throw it upward underneath your other arm.

Chuck: Yeah. It's like a diagonal, quick diagonal move. And like I said, you'll just notice, if you're not a real juggler, if you're just watching in the park one day, they'll do some crazy arm thing.

Josh: Sure.

Chuck: That's just-I call it "flair."

Josh: Well, there is actually something called flair that's a type of juggling.

Chuck: Is there really?

Josh: Bartender's flair. You know the movie Cocktail?

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Bartender's flair. That was a type of juggling, supposedly.

Chuck: Not a fan.

Josh: Oh, I thought it was great. I haven't seen-

Chuck: The movie?

Josh: Yeah. I haven't seen it in-

Chuck: Are you a fan of bartending flair, though?

Josh: Hey, I'm a Jerry Thomas fan, so yes. The answer is yes.

Chuck: All right. I like a bartender to grump at me and slide my whiskey down the bar. That's the most of trick I want to see.

Josh: That's fine. I pretty much like all bartenders.

Chuck: Yeah. That's true. They're doing God's work. So Jonathan Strickland says, generally speaking, if you have an odd number of props, you're going to require a crisscross pattern. If you have an even number of props, it's going to be two separate groups juggled in each hand.

Josh: Yeah. Remember you said you could juggle with one hand, kind of?

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: So remember toss juggling is any kind of juggling where the more-the number of objects you're juggling exceeds the number of hands you're using. So if you use two balls in one hand, that's toss juggling. That still counts. So if you're juggling four things, you're basically toss juggling separately with two hands. Two different things. So two bowling pins in each hand is toss juggling.

Chuck: I don't know if you could do clubs with one hand, can you?

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Maybe.

Josh: Yeah. You do it in columns and-

Chuck: Yeah?

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: That's some talent right there.

Josh: That's how most people do clubs is, like, one hand.

Chuck: Oh, really? I've just seen, like, the cascade, mainly.

Josh: Uh-uh.

Chuck: No?

Josh: No. Every time I've ever seen clubs, it's like one handed-two one-handed juggling.

Chuck: You need to get out more.

Josh: I guess so. I need to go to the park.

Chuck: Yeah. They hang out there, along with the hacky sackers. Yeah. Well, like you'd mentioned, then, I guess if you're going to be juggling with one hand, you've got the fountain, which is the circular pattern, like if I had two balls and I was just throwing them in a circle, or the straight up and down, which is the column.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: And that can either be synchronous or asynchronous. If you look up "synchronous column juggler" on YouTube, they're going to be doing the exact same thing at the same time with both hands.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: Which is pretty neat. I think asynchronous may be a little tougher, though, just judging by the looks of it.

Josh: Well, Strickland makes the point that since most people start out learning to juggle asynchronously-which is like that cascade is asynchronous. The hands aren't moving at the same time, they're moving at opposite beats. That it's actually easier for people to do that, to do asynchronous-

Chuck: Oh, that makes sense, I guess. Well, what do I know?

Josh: Even-handed juggling-what is that called? It's the one thing in juggling that doesn't have a name. Where you're just juggling four things at once, or an even number of things, and you're using both your hands, but you're juggling two clubs. There's no name for it. It's driving me crazy.

Chuck: I'm sure there's a name for it.

Josh: Well, I don't know what it is.

Chuck: You should name it after you.

Josh: At any term-oh, no. Here it is. Numbers juggling. Okay. So when you're doing numbers juggling, an even number of numbers juggling, you're just doing it asynchronously, probably, to start. That was my point before my little tirade.

Chuck: I wonder how many angry jugglers we have right now.

Josh: Oh, probably a lot.

Chuck: A couple hundred? There's a couple of other kinds of juggling that are fun to watch. Cigar box juggling and shaker cup. You've probably tried the cigar box thing with shoe boxes or whatever. And that's when you have any number of boxes, you're holding one in each hand, but then you have quite a few in the middle, and you'll toss them up and flip them and then catch them between the other two boxes. It's pretty neat. And the same sort of thing goes with the shaker cup. Your cups are nesting inside one another. They're like cocktail cups. And you're tossing those up and catching them and-

Josh: That probably was born out of bartender flair.

Chuck: Yeah. Probably so. All right. We mentioned clubs as an alternative. The standard club looks sort of like a modified bowling pin.

Josh: Yeah. Like a slim, svelte bowling pin.

Chuck: Yeah. A sexy bowling pin. There are European and American versions, and I think the European version is slimmer and sexier than the American, go figure. And I think they're a little more popular, as well.

Josh: Right. And the larger end is meant to fit into a champagne coupe.

Chuck: Is that so?

Josh: The European one, yeah.

Chuck: That's pretty neat. And I think you said that clubs also, if you want to do, like, knives and torches, they call that a club as well?

Josh: Yeah. I think there's a few broad categories of props. Balls, clubs, that kind of thing.

Chuck: And then subsets.

Josh: And then they fall under those subcategories.

Chuck: Of axes and torches and chainsaws.

Josh: Categories out the yin yang.

Chuck: And then there's ring juggling, of course. They're very stable because of their gyroscopic properties. And so-

Josh: Don't even mention gyroscopic properties.

Chuck: Gyroscopic properties? Well, the point is you can juggle a lot more rings at once, maybe, than you might be able to juggle a ball.

Josh: Yeah. And that's pretty impressive to see, as well.

Chuck: Yeah. And then there's this thing I found today called contact ring juggling. It's when you're not throwing rings. You really just have to see it.

Josh: Oh, you're rolling them along?

Chuck: Well, no, that's contact juggling with, like, a ball. Is when you're doing the Harlem Globetrotter thing and rolling it down your arm and over your body and stuff.

Josh: Right. Which is pretty cool.

Chuck: But the contact ring juggling is just-just look it up. It's really cool. There's all different shapes, but the ones I've seen are mainly a figure eight, and you're just manipulating them such that they look like-it looks like an illusion, almost. One will be stationary and it looks like the other ring is circling around it. Well, it is, but-just take my word for it. Contact ring juggling, everyone. Go check it out.

Josh: I gotcha.

Chuck: Very popular in Asia, it looks like. Like they've mastered it. Very cool. So let's say you got a buddy and you both like to go to the park and juggle.

Josh: Oh, this is a big one. This is pretty cool.

Chuck: It's a thing. You've seen it.

Josh: Yeah. Strickland makes the point that juggling is kind of a social thing, populated by social creatures. There's lots of juggling clubs and that kind of stuff. And where you and I think of juggling as a solitary activity, no way, man.

Chuck: No, no, no.

Josh: If you get two good jugglers together, it becomes a feast for the mind and the eyes.

Chuck: We could add this to our live show.

Josh: Juggling? Us juggling?

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: All right.

Chuck: In tandem.

Josh: We have a lot of practice to do.

Chuck: Because what we could do, Josh, on stage, if we put a lot of work into it, is something called stealing and replacing. And that is when you basically will go up-if you're juggling four clubs, I will go and steal one or maybe steal two and then three and then four, and then I'm the one juggling, but the juggling never stops.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: It looks as a seamless, synchronous pattern, uninterrupted.

Josh: If you just, like, stop another person from juggling, that's just being a jerk. The point of it is that-

Chuck: That's combat juggling.

Josh: Well, yeah, I guess so. But you're still juggling the whole time you're doing that.

Chuck: That's right.

Josh: The whole point of juggling with two people and stealing and replacing is that the balls-if you were able to ask these juggled balls what they think is going on, they would say, "Nothing. It's the same thing. We're doing the same pattern."

Chuck: They'd say, "Chuck's hands were a little sweatier."

Josh: Right. But what really happened was I replaced you.

Chuck: Yeah. That's one way to do it. Or we could stand in front of each other, like four feet apart, and we're juggling the clubs and then tossing each other the clubs, and we've got our little post-Stuff You Should Know act all worked out.

Josh: Yeah. What's cool with stealing and replacing with juggling balls, I would stand facing opposite you and just kind of grab yours, like you said, and just ultimately take over your catches, and then I would be juggling, and then you could steal it back. And we could go back and forth indefinitely. With clubs, I would be standing next to you and just basically kind of push you out of the way.

Chuck: Well, that's if you're stealing and replacing. If we're passing, then we're standing in front of each other and just throwing them back and forth to each other.

Josh: And there's actually a pretty established way of passing, where it's called the three-three-ten, where we do three passes where every third toss, I pass to you, you catch it, so you know we're in tandem and everything's going right. And then after three of those, you do every second toss, then after three of those, you do every toss, you toss another one. And then by that last one, we are just on fire, just throwing ones back and forth between ourselves.

Chuck: Yeah. And we did mention combat juggling. That was not a joke. It is a thing, and I looked up these little competitions. That's when it's sort of like dodgeball. You get, you know, ten jugglers on a stage, and they all start juggling, and they all start to try and thwart the other jugglers' juggle, while maintaining theirs. So I would go up and throw mine in the air and try and knock yours out of your hand. But you can't get too crazy, because you've got to still juggle, or else you're out.

Josh: The way we've been describing this one, it feels like we've been replaced by impostors who listen to the show a lot.

Chuck: And didn't know what topic to pick?

Josh: Right. Isn't that weird?

Chuck: It is weird.

Josh: I'm myself. Are you yourself?

Chuck: No, I'm you.

Josh: Oh, God.

Chuck: Weird.

Josh: Well, we'll get to the bottom of this right after these messages.


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Chuck: That's pretty awesome, actually. Zero startup cost and no PBX hardware to install is even more awesome, and you don't have to maintain that stuff, either. Pricing is as low as $24.99 a month per user, and it includes everything.

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Chuck: So you can try a 30-day risk-free trial that is actually risk-free. Just visit RingCentral.com to learn more. That is RingCentral.com. Or give them a call at 800-574-5290


Josh: And now, Chuck, comes the darkest time.

Chuck: Is this Josh actual?

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Okay.

Josh: I'm replaced. I replaced the replacement.

Chuck: Okay.

Josh: Nope. Still here. Saying bizarre stuff like, "I replaced the replacement."

Chuck: All right.

Josh: We're talking about the physics of juggling.

Chuck: Fun. Fun.

Josh: Which is actually kind of straightforward. It's stuff you would think of, but it's nice to put it into terms where we can say that we covered the physics of juggling.

Chuck: That's right.

Josh: So the main factor acting on juggling, probably the most important part in the whole thing, is our good friend gravity.

Chuck: That's right. And acceleration due to gravity, specifically, is 9.8 m/s2, meaning 9.8 meters per second, every second.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: So when you drop something, the speed is going to increase by 9.8 meters per second.

Josh: And don't bother us. We're not including any kind of air resistance.

Chuck: We're in a vacuum.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: To demonstrate all of our physics. We're always in a vacuum.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: Our little Stuff You Should Know vacuum, parked next to the way-back machine.

Josh: Yes.

Chuck: So it's a constant acceleration, and because of that, the only way to slow down your pattern is by throwing something higher.

Josh: Yeah. And so the more things that you add into your pattern, the higher you're going to have to throw, because you have a constant acceleration, downward acceleration, after your toss. So that means you have to open up your pattern by throwing it higher up, the more stuff you have, because you simply would not have enough time to throw X amount of balls in the air.

Chuck: You can increase your hand speed somewhat, but at a certain point, you just can't do it.

Josh: Exactly.

Chuck: There are going to be beanbags everywhere.

Josh: Yeah. Another factor-well, it's not really a factor; it's more of a fact. When you're throwing your balls, you're throwing them in a parabola, which means that the only velocity that counts is the vertical velocity, the vertical acceleration. When you throw something up, you're exerting your own force upward, and once it peaks, gravity is pushing it back downward.

Chuck: That's right. It's going to have a horizontal velocity, but that's going to be constant, so there's no force acting on it.

Josh: Exactly. There's no change in velocity.

Chuck: I guess with the column, it's pretty much straight up and down, but generally speaking, you're going to have both.

Josh: Right. It's moving horizontally, but there's no force pushing it. There's no change in-I'm sorry. There's no change in acceleration. It's constant.

Chuck: Exactly.

Josh: Okay. And then, of course, the mass of your props also count.

Chuck: Yeah, which is why if you've ever seen the old trick where someone's doing a bowling ball with a tennis ball with a club, it's super impressive, because it's much, much easier to juggle things with the same mass.

Josh: Yeah. Because you're just making the same motion over and over again.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: When you are juggling things with three different mass, meaning they have three different amounts of inertia, or they require differing amounts of force to overcome inertia, then yes, like you said, that's kind of impressive. It just requires that much more mental acuity.

Chuck: That's right. Is that all the physics?

Josh: Yeah. That's all the physics. Now, we get into the math.

Chuck: I know. This actually kind of interested me a little bit, despite the fact that it is math and I'm well known to not love it. But there was a mathematician named Claude Shannon, who proposed a juggling theorem that basically describes the relationship of a juggle.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: I keep saying "juggle." Is that a thing?

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Did I make it up?

Josh: No, I think it's a thing.

Chuck: I think it's called something else, though.

Josh: A juggle?

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Oh, a flash.

Chuck: A flash. There you go.

Josh: Yeah. That's a round of juggling, one single round where all three or all five or all seven of your balls have been tossed once at least.

Chuck: But to the layman, it's called a juggle.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: So everyone knows what I mean. And this is, in parentheses, (F+D) and then that would be times H, right?

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Outside the parentheses. Equals (V+D), in parentheses, times N, when F is the time the ball is in the air, D is the time when the ball's in the hand, H is the number of hands, V is time that the hand is empty, and N is the number of balls being juggled.

Josh: So basically what he's saying is if you add together the amount of time that a ball spends in the air plus the amount of time it spends in the hand, right?

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Which is the full amount of time that that ball exists during a flash.

Chuck: Multiply that times your hands.

Josh: The number of hands. That's going to equal the time your hand is empty plus the time the ball spends in a hand times the number of balls being juggled. I saw no reason for this equation whatsoever. At first, I was like, "Oh, that's pretty cool." And then I spelled it out to myself and it's like the amount of time the ball is out of the hand plus the amount of time the ball is in the hand times the number of balls-what? I didn't understand what the point of it was. So Claude Shannon, please get in touch with us.

Chuck: Well, that's why he did it, so people would write stuff about it, you know?

Josh: Well, the thing is-I guess the problem is-it says Shannon built a juggling robot, so I guess this formula allows robotics to happen.

Chuck: Yeah. And I saw the juggling robots, different robots that toss things and catch things. It's kind of cool.

Josh: So if that's the point of the Shannon theorem-is that what that's called?

Chuck: Sure.

Josh: The Claude's-Claude's law? Then I understand it and I take it back.

Chuck: [LAUGHS] What if there's some Claude's law that's something awful that we don't know about. I hope that's the case. And then there is site swapping, which is another math application. It's sort of akin to a musical score to a musician. It's a form of notation describing the juggling pattern, and it's what jugglers use to-basically, if you were going to write out your juggling pattern and send it to your buddy, you wouldn't say, "Take your right hand and blah, blah, blah." You would use numbers to represent it, which this actually does make sense.

Josh: Yeah. This made a little more sense to me, for sure.

Chuck: Yeah. And so a normal three-ball cascade is 3-3-3. Each throw takes three beats. A zero is a rest on an empty hand, and a 1 is handoff from one to the other. And you can actually, if you add them all together and take the average, you can tell how many balls are in that pattern.

Josh: Right. So in a 3-3-3, you add those together, that's 9, divided by 3, because there's 3 different numerals, and you've got 3.

Chuck: Or 4-5-1-4-1 is also 3.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: Math.

Josh: That sounds pretty difficult, the 4-5-1-4-1.

Chuck: You think?

Josh: Yeah. The 3-3-3 makes intuitive sense to me, but that's-you know, the 4-5-1-4-1, that's tough.

Chuck: Oh, man. Is anyone still listening?

Josh: No. Can you hear the echo?

Chuck: I can. If you look at a juggler, you might notice that they're probably not looking at their hands, at the catching. The catching is sort of automatic. They're kind of looking sort of up at the arc. And they have done experiments to see where your eyes go, A.A.M. van Santvoord and Peter J. Beck did some experiments that actually found that while the peak is important, if you see the first 100 milliseconds of the flight path, then you can juggle successfully.

Josh: Yeah. Which is pretty impressive. They found that jugglers are relying more on feel than vision.

Chuck: That's why you can juggle blindfolded if you're really good.

Josh: Supposedly some people can.

Chuck: I've seen it.

Josh: Oh, yeah?

Chuck: Yeah. I bet Brandon Ross can.

Josh: I could see that.

Chuck: Dude is talented.

Josh: So Chuck, we could probably keep talking about juggling for the next five years, because there's a lot to it.

Chuck: Yeah, man.

Josh: This is just a primer. Hopefully, you guys are inspired or at least were inspired in the first maybe 20 minutes, the good part of this episode.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: To go out and learn to juggle. I know I was.

Chuck: Yeah. And while we hate ourselves, we don't hate ourselves that much.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: We're going to end this one.

Josh: Yeah. So we think that you should learn about juggling, and you can start by typing that word into the search bar at HowStuffWorks.com. Since I said search bar, it's time for listener mail.


Chuck: This is a really touching story, oddly enough, from Jennifer Grace. She's an actor in New York City who played a very long run of Our Town on stage and had to go there without her husband at first, because they were in Chicago, and Stuff You Should Know turned out to be the thing that linked them together, before he finally moved to New York to join her. They've been together for 13 years now, and they had their son Emmett last fall, and a month before Emmett turned one, Tom, her husband, was admitted to the hospital and has been there ever since. He has a very rare issue with his bone marrow that they finally diagnosed as aplastic anemia. So basically, he has no immune system, which means he can't risk getting sick, which means her son, their son, can't even visit him. Which is just unbelievably sad. She can visit wearing mask and gloves and gown, but they can't even touch each other, the husband and wife, she says.

Josh: And this came on suddenly, too, right?

Chuck: Yeah. She said it's pretty much the worst thing ever. I mean, they spent a lot of time even diagnosing this thing before-

Josh: Poor guy.

Chuck: I know. It's just so terrible. And they're just really, really great people. She said, "It looks like we will be going forward, though, with a bone marrow transplant because he has a brother who is a match, and he does have a good chance of recovering"-

Josh: That's a good brother.

Chuck: -"with this bone marrow transplant and a round of chemo followed by this transplant in the new year." She says, "There's not a lot that I can give him by way of a Christmas present this year, given the circumstances, but I'm hoping that perhaps you would give him a shout-out on an episode. It's been a very special shared experience for us, and would really brighten his day." So Tom, dude. They also sent me a video of them playing a song together in the kitchen, doing a Springsteen song, and it was just like they're the cutest couple ever and they're really great. And I'm going to plug their GoFundMe site because they didn't even ask me to. That's why I'm plugging it. It is GoFundMe.com/f759zg, and that will help out, offset their hospital bills a little bit. And they're just really nice folks. And so Tom, get better soon, man. I hope that operation goes great.

Josh: Yeah, Tom, here's to you, buddy.

Chuck: And yeah. Good luck.

Josh: And keep us posted, you guys.

Chuck: Yeah, please do, Jennifer. That would be great.

Josh: And we should totally post that GoFundMe stuff, too, on social.

Chuck: Yeah. We'll do that.

Josh: Well, if you have a great story about how Chuck and I brought you together with your SO or helped you through a rough time or did anything good, we want to hear about it. You can tweet to us @SYSKPodcast, you can join us on Facebook.com/StuffYouShouldKnow, and you can send us an email to StuffPodcast@HowStuffWorks.com, and as always, join us at our home on the web, StuffYouShouldKnow.com


Vo: For more on this and thousands of other topics, visit HowStuffWorks.com.