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Whatever Happened To Boiling Water?

Surely the heat must be constant in order for the water to really boil?

Surely all this birthline, timeboxing and critical frequency stuff must break down somewhere?

Especially the critical frequency?


But maybe not.


Because the thing about critical frequency (and audio sampling frequency and video framerate) is…you turn the heat back on just before the water has had a chance to cool.

Let heat = input, the pans = our brain and the boiling water = the information in our brains.

Turn off the stove. Touch the pan. Ouch. It’s still hot.

Turn the stove back on. The pan simply hasn’t had time to miss the heat yet. Neither has the stove. Residual heat (or, latent heat? or is that something different?) took care of business for you.

As long as you are above the critical frequency, as long as you are above a certain sampling rate, as long as you have 24 or more frames per second…the heat might as well be constant.

The point, then, is not necessarily to have the heat on all the time, but to not let the heat go off long enough for the pan and water to cool.

  11 comments for “Whatever Happened To Boiling Water?

  1. Nick
    October 31, 2010 at 02:54

    I think this is how many poor people without heat keep warm in the winter.
    Be careful with all this turning on and turning off though, if you have a gas stove. But then again, if you’re coming back to the stove frequently anyway, you’ll notice if you forgot to turn it completely off earlier.

  2. Mattholomew III, Esquire
    October 31, 2010 at 09:18

    ^ In this case, wouldn’t leaving it on be better anyway? The surest way to win is to flood your house with flammable Japanese gasses.

  3. November 1, 2010 at 09:26

    One element missing in your metaphor is the SRS. Keeping up with your daily SRS reps is like buying more insulation for the pan. Nope, it will NEVER make the water boil on its own. But it drastically decreases the amount of heat and the amount of time needed to bring the water to boil in an almost indirect way. Sure, for example, you could just do input, frequently looking up words you don’t know in the dictionary, and eventually, with enough input, close enough together, for a long enough period of time, the water will boil. But, by keeping those words you look up in the SRS, and keeping them in long term memory through your reviews, you only have to look that word up the first time. And you benefit from that single look-up more immediately, getting more out of your input right away. The SRS can’t ever replace good old fashioned books, audio and video, but it damn sure supplements the process nicely.

  4. Patrick
    November 2, 2010 at 03:44

    Kendo, isn’t doing your repetitions just another form of input?

  5. Drewskie
    November 2, 2010 at 06:06

    The SRS simply maintains input you’ve already received. It does a really good job of reinforcing things you luckily caught in an easily understood context, but using the SRS doesn’t cause any growth. I think the insulation example is pretty solid.

  6. November 2, 2010 at 11:45

    I’ve been thinking about experimenting with this for a while.

    The one part that might work, I’m thinking, is that if you shuffle these bits and pieces (coming from different places; such as 2 minutes of Japanese one hour, and 2 minutes of Cantonese a little bit after that in the same hour, and repeat for every hour after that), you could possibly master a couple of different languages at the same time in the same process.

    Although I’m not sure if they’d just interrupt each other. Guess it’ll be mine and your task, as well, to experiment with this to the best of our abilities?

    (Critical Frequency: The Science of Little and Often, and How I Used it to Conquer Cantonese/Korean) Like the title? You should write it.

  7. November 4, 2010 at 21:27

    Pretty much what Drew said. Here’s what makes me pretty sure it doesn’t count as input: If you take any two people, one who SRS’s hours a day, using lots of pre-made decks. And one who SRS’s moderately, maybe a single hour a day, reviewing things they found on their own, and then devotes those remaining hours to input. The second person will advance much quicker, and be less likely to burn out. The second because all that input is a lot more fun than hours and hours of working through shit someone mined from a JLPT study guide, the first because real media from native sources is absolutely essential to growth. The SRS just can’t replace., using subs2srs, things like that which get multimedia on the card brings it closer, but it still just doesnt seem to have the same overall effect as kicking back and watching a few hours a day of unsubbed anime, reading a book, and listening to japanese music as often as possible while you go about your business. Fortunately, its not an either/or, and they compliment each other perfectly. Almost like…insulation and a pot of boiling water.

  8. Maya
    November 7, 2010 at 13:59

    This post kind of answers my question from the previous one about language learning and frequency 🙂 Thanks Khatz!

  9. July 4, 2011 at 00:10

    「…」As long as you are above the critical frequency, as long as you are above a certain sampling rate, as long as you have 24 or more frames per second…the heat might as well be constant.


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