Monday, October 21, 2013

9 Random Ideas

I am occasionally visited by spirits bringing random ideas.  And what's a blog good for if you can't dump your stupid ideas on it?

Warning, waste of your time to follow the colon:

(1) After reading about the "elephants understand pointing" study, I got to thinking about the field of comparative cognition.  It seems like they ought to have some tasks that are basically identical when you give them to different species (so that you can, you know, compare their cognition).  Something beyond the mirror test.  My suggestion is some form of the n-back task (I'm thinking spatial, although I don't know how to do it for birds).  They've done it for monkeys but the rodent literature is pretty sparse.  And it feels like you could do it with dolphins pretty easily too.  I bet there would be some surprising results.

(2) Someone should invent a hammock that's more comfortable for your knees, like so:

Crappy MSPaint, but you get the idea.  Just move the connecting string thingy on one side so that it attaches further down the hammock part.  Yeah.

(3) Could we train other animals to play video games? I'd start with remote-controlled cars and monkeys or primates.  Familiarize the animals with the controllers, then reward them if they can win a race (could they learn the rules of the race?).  Then you can move to racing games on a computer, if that part succeeded.  I had this idea thinking about neuroscience papers that simultaneously get tons of press (coughoreosandcocainecough) and make real scientists roll their eyes.

(4) I swear I made this up myself (Ed. note: Not sure why I thought I needed to say that):

Hey, can I tell you a joke?  Okay I want you to imagine that you're out for a weekend drive down a lovely two-lane country road.  Things are going great when you look in the rear-view mirror and you see a Dodge Ram coming up behind you, fast - but you can't get over.  Not too worried, you keep driving until you notice two Ford F-150s coming up behind the Ram.  They're all tailgating, but you're going as fast as you can and you still can't get over.  Then you look in your mirror and see not one, not two, but three Chevy Silverados coming up behind the F-150s.  You're really stressed now - but the shoulder is too narrow, there's tons of oncoming traffic, and you just can't get over.  You take a couple deep breaths, trying not to totally freak out when suddenly the unthinkable happens: you run out of gas. 
As your car slows to a halt, the trucks behind you can't handle it anymore.  They all start blaring their horns and you think to yourself,  "This is the worst pick-up line I've ever heard."

Wow!  I know, right?  I can't believe I wrote that either.  The rare quadruple double-entendre misdirection nonsequitur pun with a meta twist!  Guaranteed to bring you success with only those who share my sense of humor.  (What other kind of person could you be after???)

(5) Someone should write a gently-humorous but still educational obituary for the two oarfish that washed up in Southern California as if it was to appear in an oarfish newspaper.  In general, there should be more humor and/or narrative forms explored in science communication/writing.

(6) There should be a sequel to Katamari Damacy where you have to avoid being sucked up by Roombas.  I don't know where the game would go from there.

(7) The tunicate Ciona intestinalis needs to become a mainstream neuro study organism.  It's more closely-related to vertebrates (being a chordate) than other inverts, its larval form has fewer neurons (~100) in its "central" nervous system than C. elegans, and they've made neuron-specific genetic promoters.  Yet there hasn't been a GCaMP experiment published in them that I've seen.

(8) If we ever need a neuroscientists-against-racism campaign, this could be the slogan:

On the outside, people can be black, brown, white, and yellow.   
But on the inside, everyone's brain is pink.

(9) It would be great if once - just once - my brain could spend some of its idle time coming up with ideas actually useful for my thesis.

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