Mind Control

One of the most frightening themes in science fiction and fantasy is that of mind control, that your mind could be manipulated to make you perform actions against your will. In SF this is usually done with some sort of gadget that is implanted in your body. In fantasy, mind control is performed by the controlling being such as a wizard, vampire or demon by mystical means. Apparently the SF version is already available. It is done by brain chips. In 1970, Jose Manuel Rodrigues Delgado, a professor of physiology at Yale University, pioneered an electronic device that can manipulate the mind by receiving signals from and transmitting them to neurons. At present brain chips are used to treat such conditions as epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, paralysis, blindness and disorders. Delgado, however, was performing experiments that were more dramatic than anything done today.

He implanted radio-controlled electrode arrays in various animals and even into humans. He showed that he could control subject's minds and bodies with a push of a button. For the most part his work has been forgotten, but he is alive and living in San Diego. Between 1952 and 1970, Delgado implanted electrodes in twenty-five human brains, most of whom with severe physical illness, like schizophrenics and epileptics pacients. He showed that stimulation of parts of the brain could cause a physical reaction. Patients were made to perform such actions as tightening a fist or shaking the head from side to side by applying small electric currents to certain areas of the brain. Delgado also induced such emotions as rage, lust, hilarity and fear. In one of his experiments, he caused a macaque bully in a cage with other monkeys to be pacified when a lever was pushed. One of the female monkeys learned this and would press the lever whenever the bully tried to molest her.

One troubling aspect of Delgado's experiments is that they were supported by the Office of Naval Research. Some conspiracy theorists believe that the CIA was involved. Delgado countered any claims of mind control by saying that brain simulation can increase or decrease aggressive behavior, but not direct it at a specific target. Currently many people suffering from certain brain malfunctions have chips implanted in their heads that stimulate certain areas of the brains by wireless communication to the chip. Whether this technology will be expanded to actually control human beings to act according to another person's will is yet to be seen. It is certainly a frightening thought. Most of the information for this post came from an article in the October, 2005 Scientific American entitled "The Forgotten Era of Brain Chips" by John Hogan.

The Dark Side of The Universe

Until recently the nature of the universe seemed pretty clear cut. There were galaxies, which contained stars, planets, other types of objects such as black holes and comets, and a lot of gas and dust. Everything else was simply nothingness. The whole shebang was expanding due to "The Big Bang" which created all that stuff. Oh, there were mysteries, such as what is gravity, what happens to stuff that falls into a black hole and what caused the Big Bang to happen. But as careful measurements were made by astronomers, the numbers did not come out right. Astronomers first talk about the existence of dark matter in the 1930s. Observations showed that it outweighed ordinary matter by factor of six to one.

Galaxies are embedded in great halos of dark matter. But what was this stuff that had such a great gravitational affect but was undetectable otherwise? Astronomers think that it must consist of particles that hardly interact with ordinary matter at all. Because of this, its exact nature is unknown.With the advent of the science of particle physics, some clues have been found by particle physicists. While investigating what causes radioactive decay, a new force called the "weak nuclear force" was discovered. The hypothetical particles that carry this weak nuclear force should have properties that hint at dark matter. I want to quote a paragraph from the article in Scientific American written by Jonathon Feng and Mark Trodden. 

"These hypothetical particles include some collectively known as weakly interacting massive particles. The name arises because the particles interact only by means of the weak nuclear force. Being immune to electromagnetic and magnetic forces that dominate the everyday world, they are totally invisible and have scarcely any direct affect on normal particles. Therefore, the make the perfect candidate for cosmic dark matter." The article goes on to catalog the types of experiments that are being done to prove or disprove this theory. We shall see whether the real nature of dark matter is discovered in the next few years. It appears that physicists and astronomers are working at the problem from many different angles.