Coping: With Lag Time in Life – Psychological Altitude

Always been fascinated by lag time and hysteresis; both of which nibble at our human performance, whether we like it, or not.

To make the discussion simple, and easy to follow, there is an electrical-chemical system in the human body take takes about 100 milliseconds to make a one-way trip to the brain.  Since a millisecond is one 1,000th of a second, 10 each means the route up to the brain is about 1/10th of a second.

The brain which is a large switchboard of automatic  responses (in addition to processing live video from the optic nerve, electro-chemical analog audio from two discreets (ears), and an impossible number of pressure sensors) then turns around the input and often fires back a muscle order (the response) and so we see another 10 milliseconds to the muscles, such that normal human reactions are on the order of 200-300 milliseconds for most activity.

We run slower on Mondays, it’s understood.  At least till we hone up the reaction times (which tend to get sluggish overs the weekend) with some electro-chemical enhancement juice like caffeine.

Interestingly, however,  caffeine is not perfect, although two cups is often very useful.

For example, in an air ambulance attendant training manual I was reading this weekend, turns out that 5-cups of coffee (and the science types use 6-ounces which is a semi-standard “[cup]) you can increase the brains psychological altitude from sea level to about 2,500 feet.

In other words, oxygen uptake and the other “systems” in the body result in a psychological altitude which you run into when you’re boning up on hypoxia:

Everyone becomes hypoxic to some degree when exposed to decreased partial pressures of oxygen at altitude. Some factors beyond atmospheric pressure can cause some people to react as they would at altitude even when they are at sea level. These are what create a person’s physiologic altitude. The following factors affect physiologic altitude.

  • Smoking (due to high baseline levels of carboxyhemoglobin)—3 quick cigarettes or 1–1.5 pk/day = 2,000 foot physiological altitude.
  • Alcohol consumption (due to histotoxic hypoxia)—one ounce of alcohol = 2,000 foot physiological altitude.
  • Coffee (secondary to the stimulant effects of caffeine)—5 cups = 2,500 foot physiological altitude.
  • Anemia (due to anemic hypoxia)

All of which you can look at and self-medicate for a perfect Monday:

    • No smoking because it’s a cardiovascular constrictor
    • Not more than 2-drinks, even on Sunday afternoon, because is raises your brain’s altitude…
    • Limited coffee
    • And some kind of red meat (or iron source, I suppose) for good O2 handling.

    When you add up a couple of Camels, a hangover, five-cups of coffee and an anemia  inducing diet, it’s pretty easy to get up to a “mental altitude” of 6,500-7,500 feet…and that’s if you start from beach level. 

    Start from Denver (5,000) and your odds of maximum performance really drop like a rock…because it could be argued that your psychological altitude is somewhere up around 12,000 feet and the odds of “erroring out”  are incredibly high.  Which is why flight crews are required to use supplemental oxygen when at 12,500 feet (or higher) for more than a very short time.

    You can flip over to the Human Benchmark site here (click the reaction time tab upper left to run your own…prepare to be humbled) and see where you fit in.

    In fairness, I run Aero graphics and I am on a wireless connection, and our DSL is less than impressive (drat!), so I am not down in the 220 range, which I tend to run toward when I have chemically optimized.

    Interestingly, there’s been some very good research done on point…like this one out of the PubMed database and it shows how reaction times vary based on age (see figure 1) and educational attainment levels (see figure 2).  The main thing is (in part):

    “A striking picture emerges when we compare participants with college degrees to those with lower education at different ages; these comparisons are depicted in the horizontal bars in Figure 2. Overall, we found that that participants with college degrees performed at the same level as those with lower education levels who were 10 years younger, suggesting that higher education was associated with delayed aging effects. Planned comparisons showed that the high education group at age 45–54 did not differ significantly in RT from that of the lower education group at age 32–44. At age 55–64 the high education group resembled the low education group at age 45–54; at 65–74 the high education group resembled the low education group at age 55–64; and at 75–85 the high education group resembled the low education group at age 65–74 for the incongruent but not the simpler congruent trials. Thus, these findings suggest that the effects of education were associated with delayed age-related slowing from middle-age through older adulthood, on tasks that involved central executive processes.”

    Did you get that? 

    “…participants with college degrees performed at the same level as those with lower education levels who were 10 years younger, suggesting that higher education was associated with delayed aging effects. “

    Well, now some things start to fall into place, perhaps explaining why most people guess my age (and Elaine’s) at least 10-years low.  Getting “old” as it turns out, might be delayed significantly by hard mental workouts, along with the couple of hours a week doing really hard workouts.

    Back to the latency and reaction speed thinking:  With a person in good physical shape, cholesterol in bounds (whew) weight trending down (double whew!) and a finely tuned vitamin regimen, there’s no reason that a person can fly an airplane well into their 80’s.

    On the other hand, periodic reaction speed checks, like the one this morning are a kind of “insurance against self-delusion) that will “out” any lies we tell to ourselves about how “sharp” we are.

    – – –

    OK, why the reaction speed focus…what’s really going on, G?

    Ah.  Elaine and I are planning to run up to Seattle for a couple of weeks.  We like to take our annual pseudo-vacation because it gives me a chance to look over the country from low altitudes.  And there’s nothing like watching the sun come up over the Rockies in an old airplane, slowly following the world’s longest emergency landing strip (Interstate 90) from the midriff of Montana over to Spokane.

    Washing and waxing an airplane is not entirely an ego exercise.  I spent two brutal mornings this weekend washing and waxing.  The data says you can go as much as 2 knots (almost 2.5 MPH) faster with a fresh coat of wax.

    Working in the hangar, out of the wind, I was soaked – wring out the shirt soaked) after 20 minutes on the buffer.  And there were hours to go.

    Didn’t used to be so.,  But, never waxed upside down when it’s been 83-85 before and humidity about 90% with rain showers.

    What kind of increase in Mileage do you think we could get from the car,” Elaine inquired.

    That led to a long explanation about how 2-miles per hour (if I missed any spots) at 130 would only be half a mile an hour at 65 MPH…since air pressure/friction is a “law of squares” deal.,  Half the speed, quarter the effect.  Double the speed, four times the effect.

    Knowing how her mind works, though, I preemptively got the car washed and waxed on the way home from the airport.

    Anyway, all this got started because I read a piece about how science is now laying out guidelines for how much latency should be allowed in telesurgery.

    Cite:   Research In Lag Time Set To Determine The Future Of Telesurgery.

    Yep:  Just like the humans have a built-in time delay, so too, as robotic surgery comes down the pike, does the Internet.  And the robots that will eventually be doing surgery on humans.

    And yes, we live on a strange planet:  We have gone from doctors that made house calls to no visits at all (OK, except the TV series Rush, then). 

    And how we’re working toward robots that will make house calls and probably do remoter bunion surgery – or whatever – and it will only take a whole internet, a gazillion in software development, special training for lagged our surgeons.

    I’m just sitting here scratching my head and asking “So answer me this:  Is this really progress?

    Ham Radio Co-opted? BS

    A couple of readers asked me to comment on the article on another website that basically claimed that ham  radio has been co-opted by government.

    The claim went to the idea that government had set up programs like CERT training and the various state ham radio emergency communications groups to somehow be part of a…well, they didn’t say what. 

    The author of that article claimed to hold both ham and commercial licenses and all I can say is…let me thing here…hmmm


    A little background:  My first REAL exposure to ham radio emergency communications came helping my neighbor (sk W7IMF) run phone patches stateside following the Good Friday earthquake in Alaska back in ‘64.

    And since I’ve popped up a few times on weather nets this year, I can legitimately tell you the government hasn’t been out co-opting ham radio.

    Take Hurricane Ike, for example.  With local volunteer coms help from ham radio, that went pretty damn well.

    When there’s a big event (Joplin?) hams are there to help.  This isn’t enough “government” to go around, so hams provide a way to pass messages.

    Frankly, if government DIDN’T get more interested in using ham radio as an emergency response tool, they’d be called idiots for that, too.

    I’ll give you an example:  The National Weather Service has set up an absolutely great line of communications with storm spotters who are part of the SKYWARN.ORG program.

    You can read the details about what SKYWARN is, who’s in the game, and more, over here.

    Skywarn was born on June 18th, 1971.

    So would you consider this “co-opting” ham radio? 

    Hell no. 

    And when states actually started waking up to the ham radio resource, along came the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service.  Which is VOLUNTARY…kinds like, oh, you know:  Food banks and such?

    The Military Affiliate Radio Program (another voluntary ham radio effort) ran huge numbers of phone patches and personal message traffic where the military without civilian help, simply couldn’t.

    Ask some navy guys who served offshore during the Vietnam War about the value of a phone patch back home.  Call that co-opting?

    Hell no.

    That’s a community coming together to help one another – which is what ham radio people do.

    When I got my commercial ticket, the US population was under 200 million.  Today we are up to 320 million.  Government’s role has evolved.  Used to be a man could be an “island” but when people are starting to get so dense (fine pun, and I don’t charge extra for it) there’s a lot of benefit from resource coordination.  Sheesh!

    So call it “co-opting” if you want, but I prefer to think of it as community teamwork.

    The kind of government that works with one person per square mile is a little different that the kind of government that works when there are 10,000 people per square mile, right?  Union City NJ pencils out over 52,000 per square mile.  More people means more government…duh.

    But then again, I didn’t miss my meds this morning.

    To claim that ham radio has been co-opted is right up their with claiming the FAA has stolen the right to fly.  Which it hasn’t.  Down inside the paperwork, there’s a reason (the public safety, needs, and concerns) what apply to most government functions.  If you don’t see it, maybe the Fusion Centers are right about domestic whackos.  There are some.

    If you don’t want to be part of “the team” then don’t.  But to storm spotters, folks who handle oversea military traffic,  and direct traffic and resources during national disasters, thank you.

    There is prepping and teamwork, and there’s paranoia.  Don’t suppose you’d care to guess which team I’d be on?

    You’re either for community or you’re for anarchy.  But that’s a larger discussion than ham radio, I suppose.

    The Super-Dooper Vacation Planner for Pilots

    I put a post up on the Beech Aero Club site Sunday discussing the technical part of getting ready for a long distance flying marathon up to Seattle.

    We will leave here Friday or Saturday – depends how much scud run ning we want to do.

    The good news (at least part of the way north) is that there’s a butt-load of warm, moist air coming up from the Gulf of Mexico this week and it will give us a 20-mile per hour tail winds, which is like the sky giving us free gasoline.  Which at $5 a gallon you won’t hear me complaining about.

    But for those who are curious what kind of planning goes into a flight like this…You need to know my reference to a “mouse” is not that thing on your desk.  It’s the nickname for a Beech Musketeer…

    Flight -20 days: Complete annual or 100 hour inspection.
    Begin preliminary weather checks (
    Flight – 15 Days: O2 system check (we may do some 12,500+)
    Order current charts
    Write up three route options for flight plan.
    In our case, since this is a semi-transcon, we do a south plan (Texas- El Paso to Phoenix Deer Valley and into Palm Spring. Then up the shake and bake Central Valley as option 1. Option 2 is Texas to El Paso to Phoenix (Cutter, Deer Valley) and then up to St. George UT up through Salt Lake, and in via Twin Falls, Pendelton, Or, and then into KTIW in Seattle area. Option 3 is our favored option: Texas to KDDC Dodge City (a decent casino, lol) and then into Sheridan Wyoming on day 2. Day 3 is an option weather hold, then day 3 or 4 is Sheridan, WY via Bozeman and Missoula (Mullan Pass) into Spokane.
    At this time of year, altitude density matters to a mouse. We want to get north, cool, and high as soon as possible (Marty may have to wait for the free beers for advice we owe him, lol).
    Flight -15 days: Load all cities into CHIRP ham radio software so everything is preloaded into ham radio so we have local ATIS in the hotel room, etc.
    A couple of local 2 meter repeaters if we get lost, but the Kenwood TH-F6 is a gen coverage receiver in addition to handheld, so local police, fire, airport CTAF and ATIS is easy…
    Chirp info:’s a common data format for sharing large unwieldy frequency lists…easy to run from a laptop. Nice to have local radio stations and airport info and ham stuff along the way…
    Flight -10 Days: The weather planning becomes a huge, daily deal. We spend a half hour every afternoon (with compass juice) playing everything from the North Pacific weather inflows to how we think it may work over the west coast/
    Flight – 7 Days: Plane gets serious love and attention. Order fresh set of plugs, begin software updates (program, the maps).
    Go through all the charts you will use on the trip. Begin comparing the new GPS charts (we use the new iFly 740 with WAAS/ADSB) to spot differences. Mostly, we just buy about half the new charts we need.
    New GPS has built in 30 min battery reserve.
    Check onboard oil cache…3-4 quarts for a trip of this size and a funnel or two per day – the paper ones. One roll of paper towels per 2,000 miles. More if you’re eating.
    Flight -6 Days: (Today) Wash and clean the outside of the airplane. I have become a huge believer in using Insulator Wax on the 6″ buffer and then going over everything after that with Lemon Pledge. Go through a dozen, or so, microfiber clothes on the outside. We get anywhere from 1-4 MPH in free speed from just the buffer cleaning and wax and pledge.
    Amazing point: One of the dirtiest spots on our mouse (A-23-19) seems to be the top of the cabin and fuselage. And where the hell does all that detris on top of the vert stab come from?
    Flight – 5 days: (Tomorrow) Fill fuel tanks, vacuum interior of plane, Plexus the Windows. Wash off the wingwalk if dirty.
    Order any prescription meds that will go on trip.
    Optional: Pledge the leading edges (bugs clean off in a snap). Re Pledge the cowling.
    Flight – 5 Days: Computer Sim day; Fly every airport in MS Flight Simulator ahead of time. Set up impossible crosswinds and every other condition you can think of.
    Review all airports in Google Earth. Shoot approaches in it. Works like a charm.
    Prepay bills (have house sitter briefed up on when to mail what). This way you don’t need to lug crap around. Auto pay is made for this kind of thing.
    Flight bag check: Lithium long life batteries for the noise cancelling headphones? Three sets per.
    Pulse Oximeter check. Asthma inhaler in case?
    Laptop ready to go?
    Run the prelim weight and balance software I put in Excel…
    Flight – 4 Days: (Tuesday): Install and test fly new spark plugs (fresh set before x/c!). Mechanic any even minor squawks (accident chains!)
    Note to friends on trip plans, for flight tracking and estimating arrival (we will be busy, so help yourself N7912L…)
    Call expected FBOs and ask about reserving crew cars and such…
    Flight – 3 Days: Pack and be ready a day ahead or two behind. Daily weather and martini sessions at 4:30 Local.
    Pick up prescription meds.
    Recheck charts, put sticky lines on the charts with intended routes.
    Load daily flight plans into GPS.

    Flight Day – 2:
    Warm up hotel reservations for first night out. Another WX check and go, no-go, route change still open.
    Load vitamins (C, multi vit, aspirin, OccuGuard etc) in pill containers.
    Prep the video gear (GoPro charged and camera gear ready). Adapters to onboard audio bus…
    Daily weather planning – martinis removed…close to serious flying time.
    Flight Day -1: Last minute packing items (toothbrush and paste, hair brush, deodorant…yada yada…)
    Longer than usual weather check.
    Reconfirm or confirm first night hotel and possibly second night…
    Also load everything into and double check expected winds aloft and fuel and time enroutes.
    Final Weight and Balance/ Density Altitude planning.
    Late in the day:
    Subs and waters. Subway. Beef, extra beef, mayo, tomatoes and onion, thanks. Avacaco, smoked turkey and Swiss for the wife… on ice overnight and into cooler bag for flight.
    Load up pee pouches (some use Depends), a garbage bag for the leftovers… handiwipes for after. No point to a “long legged airplane” if you don’t stretch the legs now and then. Amazing how short legged (faster airplanes) arrive later.
    Flight Day: Extended Lockheed weather briefing discussion for the route and trip.
    Update GPS for preflight weather, file via GPS if desired, updates TFRs and all that…
    Brutal pre-flight.
    Flight following the whole way.
    ADSB and live weather throughout.
    Special attention to SIGMETS, AirMets, winds aloft via, and TFRs.
    Breakfast is served at sunrise, usually about 5.5k or 6.5k and clear the Bravo…  Even thousands plus 500 on the northwest bound leg…

    Navigating an airplane across the country is a simple matter, depending on your taste.

    Some people do IFR – which to a real pilot means instrument flight rated – but in our case translates to “I follow Roads.”  There’s a panel mounted GPS that actually had both roads and airports on it that the blonde autopilot uses while she takes about half the driving chores.

    The second option is to fly radio beacons (VOR’s) and use a paper chart.  We will take a total of about 20-sectional charts including four for Canadian airspace in the event we get weather so we can do our developers conference in Edmonton.  Last time I checked, this wasn’t a huge conference.  The only registrations allowed were Grady, Colleen, E,. and me and a bottle of scotch, but that’s how developer conferences are supposed to go, right?

    The third option is for the ace to simply look at his marvelous iFly 740 GPS and follow the instructions.  And if that’s too hard the audible alarms (Terrain!  Terrain! and Sink Rate Sink Rate!) usually get my attention before Elaine’s screams.

    At least so far.

    If you flip over to and put in N7912L up at the top of the page, you will be able to follow our exploits.  We’ll run video and audio on this trip and we should be able to produce a video at the end of the adventure…

    The Friday Urban and Saturday Peoplenomics®  may be off schedule a bit…depending on weather and when we decide to skedaddle to Seattle.

    Anyway, this is fright planning week and I’ve forbidden E from putting out any more bird food.  Every time she does, the sky opens up.  Might try that if you live in Droughtofornia.  If it works, send large bills – nothing smaller than hundreds, thanks.

    OK,  long-winded…so enough already.

    Write when you break even…


    author avatar
    George Ure
    Amazon Author Page: UrbanSurvival Bio:

    3 thoughts on “Coping: With Lag Time in Life – Psychological Altitude”

    1. If you get a chance to fly over Montanna a be sure to stop at Miles City and stay at the Olive Hotel you will step back into the 1800s and the restraint downstairs will have a steak that is hanging over the platter, The air port is about a mile from the city but will call the hotel and they will pick you up. From there it is a straight shot to the Mullin pass and Spokane WA. N5754F.

    2. Thanks George, re cleaning aircraft. You noted that the horizontal surfaces on top of wings was cleaner than the the top of cab. (vortex generators?) The reason I’m curious is because the rear window of my SUV is a dirt trap.In your experienced opinion, would a row of V-Gens along the aft roof line be helpful ?
      Thank you, dc

      • The VGs on the airplane are very small and are designed to prevent a thick boundary layer of airflow.

        Koike, Nagayoshi and Hammamotto paper here is instructive. This deals with cars/suv issues.

        Remember, the airflow issue is boundary and reattachement in the aircraft setting. In the case of a the SUV you are pulling around a big air hole behind you. So just guessing a large downward spoiler, top of cabin rear would do more to fill that drag loss void. Or very large VGs… see their paper. Aircraft already as somewhat faired out for reduction of drag…VG’s just improve the stickiness of the boundary layer.

        See explanation here:

    Comments are closed.

    Toggle Dark Mode