Thursday, August 30, 2007

Proprioceptive Illusion

The Lexington Herald-Leader ran a story last Thursday or Friday on an article in Nature in which an out-of-body experience was induced in test subjects by showing them images of themselves on VR goggles and touching the subject's back with a stick. The subjects reported they felt that their consciousness was in the image they were looking at. Out-of-body experiences had previously been induced by electrodes in the brain.

We have known about optical illusions for years. More recently we have added cognitive illusions (see for example "Inevitable Illusions", Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini, blogged here); and moral illusions (see "The Blank Slate", Stephen Pinker, blogged here).

I think we can now characterize the "out-of-body experience" as a proprioceptive illusion (not sure if that is the correct adjectival form of the noun proprioception, our sense of where our body is) -- and not as evidence for the existence of a soul separate from the body, as is often done.

BTW, last blog I mentioned playing at the last Old Farts' Jam at Lynagh's. I meant to meantion that one of our young developers who hangs out at Lynagh's regularly sent an e-mail to most of development trying to get people out for my final performance there. Attendees showing up, 0. :-(

Played last night (softly) at Coffee Island, in the former sight of The Kentucky Arcade, my son's erstwhile favorite video game hangout. It was fun, very laid back.

Next week, we start up at O'Neil's Irish Pub, Wednesdays from 5-9. Nice place, nice stage, medium sized dance floor. Haven't decided yet how early I want to try and get out there.

Reading the latest Year's Best. Just read a great story by Benjamin Rosenbaum, "The House Beyond Your Sky". Per his web site, it's up for Hugo. Great computational cosmology, great stuff, one to keep an eye on.

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