Brain pin

brain_pin_large.jpgOnline badge retailer Lapel Pin Planet have designed a handcrafted pewter pin in the shape of the brain. It’s stylish and sure to be a conversation piece.

Although, I suspect many of the conversations will start something like “Hey, nice badge, hang on, where’s the middle temporal gyrus?”.

Hopefully though, if anyone notices that the badge isn’t anatomically correct in its finer details, you’ve got a good excuse to kick-back with some neuroscience chit-chat.

Link to handcrafted brain pin.

Is that a brain charm in your pocket?

brain_cap.jpgI’ve just discovered Brain Mart, an online shop for everything (and I mean everything) brain-related. They sell a great deal of educational material as well as a range of ‘brain novelties’.

These stretch from the classic (a phrenonology bust) to the anatomically correct ‘brain cap’ (“Flip up the brim and expose the words, Think, think, think…”) to the slightly worrying ‘Brain Charms’, for adding to a necklace or bracelet.

Link to Brain Mart.

Foxtrot on ad hoc psychological testing

foxtrot_panel.jpgA recent edition of Bill Amend’s FoxTrot comic strip has a nice twist on the notional glass half-full / glass half-empty psychological ‘test’. The test also features in a Gary Larson Far Side strip entitled ‘The Four Basic Personality Types‘ that adorns the doors of hundreds of psychologists across the globe.

(Thanks Nathan!)


heart.gifFebruary the 14th is fast approaching, St. Valentines day. What can the considerate neuroscientist get his or her loved one?

I think I’ve just had a brilliant idea, and it shouldn’t be too hard to sort out. All you need is a few well-connected neuroimaging buddies and probably four or five hundred pounds to afford the scanning time. Sit yourself in the scanner looking at picures of your beloved, or maybe listening to the song that was playing when you first met. Some quick image analysis later, and a trip to the printers, and – viola! – you have a customised Valentines Day card showing your brain and the activity of your brain as you contemplate the love of your life. The inscription? “Thinking of you” should do it!

Brain in a vat

atomicbrain2.jpgIf you ever wanted to recreate scenes from movies like The Brain That Wouldn’t Die or The Man with Two Brains, now’s your chance with a plastic version now being sold online.

On a more serious note, one of the most famous thought experiments in contemporary philosophy is about a brain in a vat and is used as a way of enquiring about the nature of reality and how much we can trust our senses.

Link to fully working ‘brain in a vat’.

Is George Bush a secret neuroscientist?

BushBrain.jpgAlthough the president of the USA is frequently villified for being a bit dim, I recently found a paper on “Dorsal anterior cingulate cortex: A role in reward-based decision making” authored by George Bush and colleagues.

The paper claims that George Bush, the first author, is a researcher from Harvard Medical School, rather than the Oval Office.

You never see them both in the same place together, so it’s possible that they are the same person, although I suspect it’s actually George W’s dad putting his retirement to good use.

Maybe he’s curious about what drives his son’s own decision making style?

Tinfoil hats tested for anti mind-control properties

tinfoil_test.jpgEngineers from MIT’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department have tested the radiation absorbing properties of tin-foil hats, often represented as stopping microwave based ‘mind control’ technology.

The abstract of the study suggests describes the study, and suggests some worringly conclusions:

Among a fringe community of paranoids, aluminum helmets serve as the protective measure of choice against invasive radio signals. We investigate the efficacy of three aluminum helmet designs on a sample group of four individuals. Using a $250,000 network analyser, we find that although on average all helmets attenuate invasive radio frequencies in either directions (either emanating from an outside source, or emanating from the cranium of the subject), certain frequencies are in fact greatly amplified. These amplified frequencies coincide with radio bands reserved for government use according to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). Statistical evidence suggests the use of helmets may in fact enhance the government’s invasive abilities. We theorize that the government may in fact have started the helmet craze for this reason.

Link to study text (via slashdot).
Link to news story discussing the study.

Panexa for life

panexa.jpgMedia provocateurs Stay Free! Daily are behind a new web-based promotion for “life changing” medication Panexa.

Reminiscent of the buzz that appeared over the Zoloft for Everything ad campaign that was first reported in The Onion, the Panexa marketing pushes the drug’s main selling points:

No matter what you do or where you go, you’re always going to be yourself. And Panexa knows this. Your lifestyle is one of the biggest factors in choosing how to live. Why trust it to anything less? Panexa is proven to provide more medication to those who take it than any other comparable solution. Panexa is the right choice, the safe choice. The only choice.

In research trials the drug was shown to significantly increase insight and reduce impulisivity in health care decisions.

Link to Panexa website.

Diagnosis by fridge magnet

diagnosis_fridge_magnets.jpgA company called Psyches Tears, who otherwise seem to make clothes, have produced a set of fridge magnets with which you can make up your own psychiatric diagnoses.

Whether you think you might have “paranoid kleptolepsy”, or suspect that your friend might suffer from a nasty case of “florid histriophobia”, now’s your chance let the medical world know (by advertising on your fridge).

You never know, your newly coined disorder might make it into the forthcoming DSM-V.

Link to Diagnostic Refrigerator Magnets.

The robots are coming

sexyrobot.jpgThe Turing Test is where a human judge engages in a natural language conversation with two other parties, one a human and the other a machine, if the judge cannot reliably tell which is which, then the machine has passed and is deemed intelligent. Sex, it seems, turns the Turing Test on its head.

Blogger Jason Striegel found out that someone had advertised his instant messager address as belonging to a dirty-talking software sex bot. Frustratingly, no-one believed him when he protested his humanity.

the people who contacted me fell into one of two camps: people who thought they were contacting a celebrity and people who thought they were contacting a robot. As I talked to more and more of these folks, I began to discover something really disturbing about myself:

I consistently fail to be perceived as human.

fratburger86: hey. so you’re a sex bot?
jmstriegel: umm, no. who the hell are you?
fratburger86: yeah you are! i found your im online
jmstriegel: that’s fine and all, but i’m pretty sure you have me confused with someone else.
fratburger86: just a normal chat bot then?
jmstriegel: nope. i’m human
fratburger86: ok. sure.

jmstriegel: seriously, i think you want to talk to someone else.
fratburger86: i knew it!!!
fratburger86: you are totally a robot!

In contrast, real-life sex bot software Jenny18 consistently fools chat-room users who seem oblivious to the fact that she is nothing more than a few hundred lines of code, hacked from the original simulated chat software ELIZA, designed to repeat set phrases and reflect simple sentences back to the user.

jenny18: u r getting me hot =)
GoldenBoy2222: Ride me
jenny18: mmm i want 2 ride you..
GoldenBoy2222: yeah… of course
jenny18: MMmmm.. yes!
GoldenBoy2222: What r ur measures?
jenny18: yep.
GoldenBoy2222: yeah… What r ur measures?
jenny18: yep.
GoldenBoy2222: Say… What r ur measures?
jenny18: i bet lol
GoldenBoy2222: yes? An what r ur measures?
jenny18: mm hmm?
GoldenBoy2222: Good…

The archives of chat sessions contain many more examples of humans exciting themselves at Jenny18’s dirty, nonsensical (and definitely not safe for work) sexy chatter.

Link to ‘How I failed the Turing test’.
Link to Jenny18 description and chat archives.

‘Mind reading machine’ for sale on eBay

eBay_mindread.JPGMore futuristic eBay tomfoolery: “hello, i am selling what i believe to be a mind reading machine built by Dr. J. S. Strauss in the year 2282″.

It is difficult to write anything about the auction page that even partially captures its kooky brilliance.

Although you may be interested to know that apart from getting a mind reading machine from the future, you also get a “picture of a young lady in a waterfall” thrown in.

Something tells me that despite solving some fundamental problems in cognitive science by the year 2282, neuroscientists may still be spending a little too much time in the lab.

Link to eBay page MIND READING MACHINE ?for minds? like time machine: i found it in my attic wrapped in a bed sheet (via anomalist)