(Gunshot.) Shhhh, just lie still, son, don’t try to talk. I know what you’re wondering. You come into town with the fastest draw in the West and I let you draw first and still you’re still the one lying here a bullet in ya. Well, if only you’d studied some neuroscience you’d know that being the fastest ain’t necessarily gonna help you, son. Why, a study just come out in the Proceedings of the Royal Society. That’s a Brit journal, don’t worry about it. Showed that I can go 10 percent faster reactin’ to you drawing your gun than if I just tried to draw my own gun first. Has to do with the way the nervous system’s set up. And that 10 percent more, why it more than made up for your puny advantage. They say the great physicist Neils Bohr wondered why the ones who drew second always seemed to win in Western movies. Well, now we know. Now gimme back my issue of Scientific American what you stole, you magazine rustler.
[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]
Erratum (2/4/10): This transcript includes an error involving the allegedly "puny" advantage of gunfighter 1, whose advantage in fact is not puny. Although gunfighter 2 moves about 21 milliseconds faster than does gunfighter 1, the initiation of that movement can take about 200 milliseconds. So the faster reaction movement would not ordinarily make up for that delay. In this particular dramatic scenario, gunfighter 2 is simply the better shot.