fighting the modern war with a sliver of rat brain in a dish

No time to blog tonight, but I did want to pass along this link to an article in The Age that was just sent along by our friend Dave Morris in Seattle. Here’s how the article begins:

It sounds like science fiction: a brain nurtured in a Petri dish learns to pilot a fighter plane as scientists develop a new breed of “living” computer. But in groundbreaking experiments in a Florida laboratory that is exactly what is happening.

The “brain”, grown from 25,000 neural cells extracted from a single rat embryo, has been taught to fly an F-22 jet simulator by scientists at the University of Florida…

I’d read somewhere before that the human element was always the biggest vulnerability our country faced relative to our nuclear war-fighting capabilities during the Cold War. As I recall, we just couldn’t be sure that the men whose job it was to launch the nuclear warheads would actually do it when it came time to make good on the threat of “mutually assured destruction.” We drilled them and drilled them, but we could never be 100% sure that, when it meant killing tens and hundreds of millions of innocent civilians, they’d do what they were told. One suspects that rat neurons wouldn’t be as emotional about such things… I, for one, look forward to the day when my destiny is decided by a plate of pulsating rat neurons. It’s kind of poetic in a way.

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2 Comments

  1. Tony Buttons Esq.
    Posted December 13, 2005 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Some rat brain cells are probably well-connected enough that they they won’t have to fly in battle. They’ll get into the Texas Air National Guard or something.

  2. mark
    Posted December 13, 2005 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Morris sent me that article under the heading, “How to Save the Airline Industry.” I probably should have kept going in that direction, but my mind jumped off on a military tangent. I do like the idea though that all of our lives could depend on a plate full of rat neurons.

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