This is your brain on marshmellows

Researchers conducting studies into the motor cortex of your brain have reported that eating too many marshmellows (or bananas?) could end up making you look like this:

Seriously, though, I am fascinated by this article.  First researchers taught monkeys to feed themselves marshmallows using a joystick.  Been awhile since I’ve seen one of those.  Then they put the monkeys in restraints, put a ‘brain wave interface’ into their motor cortexes which allowed the monkeys to manipulate the arm by brain power alone, and eventually tested the monkey’s ability to operate the arm around obstacles.  Different monkeys tested differently, but there was a 78% rate over 13 days of tests with the best monkey.

The whole thing raises possibilities for the future of prosthetics and even automated production lines.  After all, what couldn’t you do if you can hook your brain up to a machine or robot?  Of course, the researchers caution that these ‘brain-machine interfaces’ have only ever been tested in specific virtual reality settings.  I’d like to know where and when myself – the idea of sticking metal things in my head and possibly being mind controlled does not appeal.  But even if I’m excited about the possibilities on the whole, I do have additional questions.  Why marshmallows and not bananas?  Why joystick training initially?  What constitutes success in the experiment?  Is marshmallow in the eye a failure?  What about when the monkey can’t eat another marshmallow without ralphing?  Is that a failure?  How often each day to they run these tests?

I guess for now the world will have to wait for the combination of peanut butter and chocolate.  No wait, we’re post-Reese’s.  For the combination of brain and machine.

How much caffeine can one body hold?

Whoa.  I wrote this on May 15 and it never got published.  I guess my fingers were too jerky to click the right buttons.  Whoops!  Regardless, you can enjoy it now:

After two 16 oz. glasses of Coke today and a big D&D iced coffee this morning, I’m feeling a little jittery. But then, it’s also Dunkin’ Donuts free iced coffee promotion day. I can basically go to a variety of different locations around the city and get virtually unlimited iced coffee. A woman in my office has already gotten three. I feel like I’m lagging behind. And while I’m not sure I agree that D&D ‘practically invented’ the drink, it is a reasonably tasty coffee-flavored coolness. So why not have more, for free?

I guess it comes down to my own personal drink tolerance. I am a fairly heavy water drinker throughout the day, so I can drink quite a bit of liquid in one sitting without harsh results. And, due to my high metabolism, I process stuff reasonably quickly. Usually this results in coffee and other such beverages making me sleepy, when consumed in quantity. The jag of stimulus is so quick, I barely feel it before my body system depresses itself in reaction. SO, before I can get too sick of the stuff, I’m asleep. Or at least moving very slowly.

Though this is hardly a typical reaction, it does express one central concern of excessive caffeine intake. There is a point of no return. Eventually there are diminishing returns and risks worse than sleep, like heart attack and jumpy liver syndrome (It’s more real than a wandering womb, I guarantee). At what point does the freeness of iced coffee drink become a potential danger? I haven’t yet decided – I’m off to experiment.

Deeply sorry.

Stone issued an apology for her comments regarding Tibet, China’s earthquake, and karma.  My original posting on the topic is here, for more detail.

While I agree that a public apology was the only course of action after Stone’s well-intentioned but inflammatory comments, the Chinese reaction was a bit harsh.  Dior is taking her out of all advertisements in China.  Would the Chinese people really boycott their products if Dior did not make this move?  Even after Stone apologized and promised to help with quake relief work?  I know the whole incident must have been deeply painful for certain people, but we all get hurt a little sometimes.  We all make mistakes.  Can we focus, instead, on the cooperation and friendship that has grown from the quake relief?  Isn’t that still news?

My lovely iron lung.

My friends and I are still fans of the ‘your mom’ jokes.  It’s like fortune cookies ending with ‘in bed’ – almost any phrase, especially an insult, can be recast by tagging ‘your mom’ at the end.  Someone says you’re ugly?  Say “Your mom is ugly.”  Someone implies you’re not astute?  Say “Your mom is dumb.”  There are endless variations to such tags, ranging from ‘your dog’ to ‘your grandpappy’.  Some of them are more creative than others.  Personal favorites from my friends include ‘your baked goods’ and ‘your iron lung’.

Now, iron lungs aren’t naturally funny for the people who still use them.  They may look funny, no matter how many tasteful or fun stickers are plastered to the outside, but in reality they are a very serious and needed piece of equipment.  A real iron lung kept Dianne Odell alive for 50+ years, until power outages and a failure of the backup generator allowed her to slip away.  Iron lungs are still in use for particular medical conditions such as Ondine’s curse (great name for a medical condition), a form of apnea that can happen even when awake.  I would certainly not want to disrespect anyone who must make use of an iron lung.  Nor would I want to upset Ondine.  Still, there is a sense of the ridiculous that surrounds them.  Maybe it’s their big and bulky nature.  Or maybe it’s the fact that I don’t have one, making the ‘your iron lung’ comment completely ridiculous, in the same way that ‘your piebald horse’ would be equally ridiculous.

Wow.  That was pretty good.  I think ‘your piebald horse’ should make the top ten list of ‘your mom’ jokes.