A dive into love

Oct 5, 2007

Last week, Duke computer science professor Rachael Brady introduced me to the Duke Immersive Virtual Environment, a six-sided cube that can be transformed into make-believe worlds (think Star Trek Next Generation). Walk in, put on the 3D glasses, and the cube takes you places.

Brady has agreed to host one of the pre-conference science lab tours the day before the NC Science Blogging Conference next January, and the five individuals who get to go to this tour are in for a treat. Brady will demonstrate a variety of experiments, including one that tests a person’s expectations of pain using virtual snakes and spiders that bite your feet.

Another demonstration displayed the image of a human brain, made from three dozen MRI scans of one individual’s noggin. With a joystick in hand, I could rotate the brain, bring it closer, peer beneath and above and into it. As Brady clicked through the program, the gray matter peeled away and I was seeing the shapes of various regions of the inner brain.

Aha, I murmured. “This helps me understand an article I wrote about deep brain stimulation,” I told Brady (see Probing Minds).

I was amazed by the brain, amused by the spiders, and tickled by the virtual footbridge Brady had me walk off, sending me falling into a chasm. I thought of that again today as I walked through the Duke Gardens, smelling pink ginger flowers and listening to my iPod.

“I want somebody to share, share the rest of my life …” came through the headphones, Depeche Mode singing a story that is one of two songs I most associate with my headlong falling in love with Erin in 1991 (the other: Storybook Love), our first week of dates including a blissful walk and first kiss at the Shaker Lakes.

Anton Zuiker

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