Let Me Tell You What That's Like

New feature here. We'll see how it goes.

I love my sister but she's the worst. When I was nine, I fell out of our treehouse and broke my collarbone. Angry at the attention I was getting, she jumped from the same treehouse and broke both legs (she still walks with a limp). I'm getting married next month. She's bound to pull something and I want to warn people. What's a good analogy for our relationship?

"“ Kate
(City Withheld), Texas

luna15.jpgYour sibling rivalry reminds me of the space race. Did you know that while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were traipsing around the lunar surface, a Soviet spacecraft "“ Luna 15, at right "“ slammed into the Moon? Sounds like something your sister might do if you were an astronaut and she ran a rival nation's space program. This will work especially well if your friends are still harboring Cold War resentment.

I tried and failed to get a former colleague a job with my new company. He was passed over for a less experienced guy with "more potential." People raved about this guy like he was the iPhone. But after months of lackluster work, he was caught trying to steal a scanner. After a tearful admission to HR, he was escorted out by the rent-a-cops that patrol our office park. A more humiliating fate I cannot imagine. I feel so vindicated. What parallels this clown's fall from grace?

"“ Theresa
Atlanta, Georgia

darko03.jpgDrop this line at your next office happy hour: "Glad we finally got rid of Darko." Darko Milicic was a highly touted prospect before the 2003 NBA Draft. The Detroit Pistons selected him #2 overall, ahead of future stars Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh. Talk about hype. Hindsight is 20/20, but it's also often hilarious. This is from ESPN analyst Chad Ford back then:

"Darko is really one of a kind. He runs the floor, handles the ball, shoots an NBA three and plays with his back to the basket. So you can slot him at the 3, 4 or 5. Okay, a few other guys can do that, too, but what sets Darko apart is his toughness in the post "¦ Fact is, Darko plays in attack mode at both ends of the floor. The more you push, the more he pushes back."

Darko did not push back hard enough. In parts of three depressing seasons with the Pistons, he never averaged more than 1.8 points or 6.9 minutes a game. Now he's with the Orlando Magic (and improving, I must admit). And in his defense, he was never accused of stealing company property.

Does a third-party candidate actually have a chance to win in 2008?

"“ Ralph
Essex Fells, New Jersey

Hmmm. I think you misunderstood the concept. Asking me this question is like asking spelling bee contestants whether or not they'd make good pirates. An interesting query, yes. But altogether inappropriate for the venue.

Hope you enjoyed the pilot episode. If you'd like to have something Analogized, email us here.

Which Terrestrial Planet?
You Can Sip Coffee and Play Games While This Helmet Scans Your Brain

Brain scanning is a delicate operation, one that typically involves staying very still. Researchers use imaging techniques like magnetoencephalography (MEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging to get an idea of how the brain functions and what neurons are being activated, but it's not an easy task. Current scanners are huge, requiring patients to sit unmoving inside them, lest their head movements mess up the data. There may soon be a better way—one that would allow patients to act normally while still getting reliable data.

Researchers from the University of Nottingham in the UK report in Nature that they've developed a prototype brain scanner that can be worn like a helmet, one that can generate reliable data even if the subject moves.

It uses lightweight quantum magnetic-field sensors held against the scalp by a 3D-printed helmet that's custom-made for the patient. For the study, one of the researchers volunteered to be the patient and was fitted with a white plastic helmet that looks kind of like a cross between a Roman Centurion helmet and a Jason Voorhees Halloween mask. She was positioned between two large panels equipped with electromagnetic coils that cancel out the Earth's magnetic field so that it doesn't interfere with the magnetic data picked up from the brain. As long as the patient stayed between the panels, she was free to move—nod her head, stretch, drink coffee, and bounce a ball with a paddle—all while the scanner picked up data about on par with what a traditional scanner (seen below) might gather.

A man sits inside an MEG scanner.

The more flexible scanning system is exciting for a number of reasons, including that it would allow squirmy children to have their brains scanned easily. Since patients can move around, it could measure brain function in more natural situations, while they're moving or socializing, and allow patients with neurodegenerative or developmental disorders to get MEG scans.

The current helmet is just a prototype, and the researchers want to eventually build a more generic design that doesn't require custom fitting.


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