June 2007 Archives

This bit of bad science has been floating around on blogs and what not this week. Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy takes it apart nicely.

Epilepsy and Auras

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It is fairly clear that the term aura as it is typically used is completely bogus and without meaning. However, those who suffer from migraines or epilepsy may experience a period of altered perception, also called an aura, immediately before the onset of a headache or a seizure.

This state is thought to be caused by a tiny seizure affecting only a small portion of the brain. As the electrical disturbance spreads out to affect the rest of the brain more and more senses and brain systems can be thrown out of whack. Ultimately the disturbance is either brought under control or a tonic-clonic seizure acts as a reset button and reboots the brain.

I am very interested in ways the brain can malfunction and the strange mental states that can result. Ever since reading this thread (also archived here) I have secretly wanted to have a seizure just to experience the aura.

However, this brings up very strange epistemological questions. Since a major seizure almost always results in short term memory loss I would very likely have no memory of experiencing the aura. For some strange reason I still think it would be a good experience to have, but I cannot for the life of me form a coherent justification for that belief.

Magic Firearms

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Some designs for products make supernatural claims without even thinking about it. First read this then take a look at this.

Ingenieurwesen

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Holy crap! There is a secret society of engineers in Canada. They wear Iron Rings which legend has it were originally hammered manually from the steel of a beam from the Quebec Bridge, which collapsed during construction in 1907, killing 75 construction workers due to poor engineering. Although that bit isn't true the collapse of the bridge did inspire the creation of the organization.

They even have an initiation ritual written by Rudyard Kipling, The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer. It is good stuff too. It has Morse Code and reading from Apocryphal books of the Bible (2nd Esdras).

Personal Finance Tools

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Confusing Security Product

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A high-tech, transparent window coating that blocks electromagnetic waves. Wait. It is transparent i.e. it allows light to pass through AND it blocks electromagnetic waves? I think someone needs to retake highschool physics. A more correct analysis would be that the coating is transparent to some forms of electromagnetic waves and opaque to others.

Tools for Entrepreneurs

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J.D. of Get Rich Slowly has collected a list of resources for entrepreneurs including sample forms and documents. Could come in handy.

ExtremeTech has reviewed several online video editing applications. It looks like the web isn't just for photos any more.

European hackers Mark Hoekstra and Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten plan to use bonded wireless ethernet interfaces to great effect.

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