Sunday, 16 August 2009

Weekend bits and pieces

Perhaps you'll enjoy two very contrasting articles from New Scientist.

The first deals with a truly miraculous invention that seeks to restore some element of sight to the blind. How? A small video camera mounted in a pair of sunglasses captures visual images and converts them to electrical signals. These are then sent to the brain... via the nerves of the tongue! Apparently, after a little practice, "patients have learned how to quickly find doorways and elevator buttons, read letters and numbers, and pick out cups and forks at the dinner table without having to fumble around." Truly remarkable. The key question for me, is "whether the information is then transferred to the brain's visual cortex, where sight information is normally sent, or to its somatosensory cortex, where touch data from the tongue is interpreted", as the researchers note.

The other article that caught my attention was one on the evolutionary shape of ... the penis. I had heard of this hypothesis before, namely that the penis' odd shape and the thrusting movements of sex are primarily mechanisms to remove any rivals' lingering spermatozoa. It sounds bizarre, but a series of ingenious experiments have lent significant support to the idea.

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