carpe399: October 2011 Archives

Flashes of Light When Blind

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According to the website above, on July 16th, 1945 an atomic bomb went off at a testing site in Socorro, New Mexico. About 50 miles away from the testing site, eighteen-year-old Georgia Green was riding in the car on a highway and saw a flash of light at about the same time the bomb went off. This wouldn't be so fascinating if Georgia Green hadn't been blind. How could it be that she saw the flash of light when she was legally blind in both eyes? Well maybe she didn't. This is an example of correlation vs. causation. Did the atomic bomb really cause Georgia Green to see a flash of light or are the uncorrelated? The flash of light could have been caused by something completely unrelated. It's hard to say and it's impossible to test because it was such a brief moment and you cant go back in her memory to test what caused her to see this flash, but it is curious that both these events happened at almost the same time. Another type of scientific thinking this should bring up is Occam's Razor. Is there a simpler explanation that works just as well? For example, blind people have been known to see random flashes of light that have nothing to do with anything going on around them. Similar to the brief flash of light you might remember seeing if you hit your head really hard. Maybe the fact that Georgia Green saw this flash of light near the time the bomb went off is a coincidence, and it is a more probable explanation.

My parent's generation is very critical of today's youth and our attachment to our "devices", more specifically our Smartphones. High school's now have rules in their handbook about the use of cell phones during the school day, something that wouldn't have been a problem a couple of decades ago. This is because teenagers can't seem to stand being without their phones for that length of time. What I find even more interesting is that those who are the most attached to their phones are the people who have internet access connected to their device, in other words, have a Smartphone. Blackberry's, one of the more popular Smartphones, have been given the nickname "Crackberry" because people seem to become addicted to them within a matter of days. I own a blackberry device and from personal experience can advocate for that nickname. Before I owned my Blackberry I had a very basic cell phone that I had no particular attachment to and never really had the urge to use it in class, and I didn't fret much if it ran out of battery. That changed completely when I switched to my Smartphone. Now I keep my phone so close its like a fifth limb and when the battery is close to dead I start feeling extremely anxious, almost as if I'm addicted. When I lose it or forget it somewhere, I feel withdrawal.
This relates to cognitive neuroscience, which looks at the relationship between the functions of the brain with ones emotions and thinking. According to the article I read in The New York Times (, the feeling people get for their Smartphones is not addiction, but rather love. A study was conducted where subjects between the ages eighteen and twenty-five were exposed to both the sound of a phone vibrating and ringing, and of a picture of a phone separately. When a subject heard the sound of a phone it activated both the audio and visual cortices of the brain. They had the same reaction when they were shown a picture of a Smartphone. What was even more revealing was the fact that the insular cortex of the brain showed a lot of activity during both these tests, which suggests that the subjects associated the sound of a phone ringing and a picture of a phone with feeling love and compassion. I argue that the reason we associate our phones with such strong positive feelings is not because of the phone its self, but what our phone does for us. When I feel my phone vibrate or hear it ring I have a positive reaction because it means someone is trying to contact me and that makes me feel important or loved. People are not in love with their phones, they are in love with being loved.

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This page is an archive of recent entries written by carpe399 in October 2011.

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