Science & Society

Science and Society and how they get along.

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Location: Santa Barbara, California, United States

I'm a physicist and science consultant specialized in optics, lasers and optical engineering. This blog, StarkFX, looks at what applications physics is finding today. Or, if you are looking at my StarkEffects blog, it displays my views about and interest in the interface between society and science.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Mind Reading

It is official! Science is now on the verge of reading your mind. OK that may be a little of an exaggeration, but the story I'm referring to is still pretty cool. In the August edition of Scientific American, there is an article by Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen L. Macknik called Windows on the Mind. The article actually talks more about the discovery over the last century that the little microscopic motions of our eyes are actually essential to our vision. Without them, we would be unable to see anything unless it moved, which we happen to be better tuned to anyway. The article was pretty good at describing the process of going from wrong assumptions to a better understanding -it seems that these motions were initially assumed to be detrimental to our vision. The small part of the article that had anything to do with mind reading showed up in the last couple of paragraphs as little unimportant asides. It seems that those microsaccades are biased in direction toward those objects that are actually the focus of your attention. When it seems that I haven't even noticed that beautiful girl across the room, measuring the bias in direction of the microsaccades of my eyes would likely betray my attentional focus. I'm afraid the result of that betrayal will probably not surprise anyone! But it is still an interesting result even if it never will provide the government with a mind reading machine. For that, they can hire my consulting firm to study the long list of potential technologies which really are getting too close for comfort.

T. Troy Stark