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Crowd-Based Peer Review of Real-Time Experiments
March 7, 2011 7:07 PM   Subscribe

Backyard Brains, the people who showed you how to stimulate neurons in a cockroach leg using your iPhone, now bring you the remote controlled roach.

Text version: Surprisingly cheerful people remove the circuit board from a remote-controlled toy, modify it slightly, and attach it to the antenna neurons of a live cockroach. The toy's controller now steers the roach. Metafilter has previously discussed 100% natural methods of creating zombie roaches.

Warning: May appear in your nightmares.
posted by drdanger (28 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm going this is cool without even watching the video because it will give me terrible nightmares.
posted by two lights above the sea at 7:15 PM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Then they sent that roach back in time to kill Sarah Roach Connor. I am also reminded of this for some reason.
posted by Menthol at 7:21 PM on March 7, 2011


This one is still my favourite for the moment, partly because of the phrase "the beetle is tethered for practical purposes".
posted by saturday_morning at 7:25 PM on March 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


That is so cool. Even though I kind of feel bad for the roach, being manipulated like that.

But my most pressing question is, what kind of roach is that, anyways? It looks too large to be a run-of-the-mill North American cockroach (er, from my limited experience - maybe they do grow larger?). A friend once had some sort of African cockroaches for pets, and they would be about the right size match.
posted by eviemath at 7:27 PM on March 7, 2011


There is a good discussion of this on a BoingBoing comment thread. Plenty of uninformed arguments on either side of the topic, but a guy from Backyard Brains responded to some complaints, as well as stated the point of the exercise, with this and this.
posted by modelenoir at 7:53 PM on March 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


I wonder what this must feel like for the roach. I know that is terribly anthropomorphizing, but there's a big difference between "must... go... left" and "I think I'll go left now". Is this mind control in the sense of forcing the roach to do something it does not want to do, or are the electrical impulses that are being imparted by the circuitry essentially identical to the electrical impulses that would arise out of the roach's natural "thought process".
posted by Rock Steady at 7:57 PM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


That same question arose in my mind as well, Rock Steady.
posted by Evernix at 8:06 PM on March 7, 2011


Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
posted by Space Kitty at 8:18 PM on March 7, 2011


I know that is terribly anthropomorphizing, but there's a big difference between "must... go... left" and "I think I'll go left now".

That difference does not necessarily exist for the roach. You need a fairly deep hierarchy of sensory and motor brain areas to plan, and without planning there's no "I think I'll go left now." There's just "I'm going left now. Now I'm going right."
posted by IjonTichy at 8:20 PM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


BTW this is a pretty cool DIY project but was done by researchers ~10 years ago.
posted by grobstein at 8:23 PM on March 7, 2011


I'm not about Famous Animal Rights Activists. I would rather spay and neuter the afore mentioned group because some tangible benefit might come from sterilizing that nothing-to-do-with-Maslow-lot.

I've roasted ants with a magnifying glass, I've salted slugs, I've pulled legs off of Daddy-Longlegs spiders, I've set traps to drown slugs in mayonnaise jar lids full of beer (to keep them from the lettuce), I've ran slugs over directly with my bicycle. I've thrown rocks at dogs (when they were wanting to bite me). I eat meat without remorse. I wear leather shoes. I like drag-racing and excess. I like fuck you, Metal, loud, and I'm excited watching a (mutual combat) fight on the street.


Stimulating neurons in a cockroach leg for entertainment is fucking bullshit Yo.
posted by vapidave at 8:28 PM on March 7, 2011


I wonder what this must feel like for the roach.

Roaches don't really have "brains" the way we do. Nearly all of their actions are controlled by ganglia spread throughout their bodies. Their behavior is like human reflexes.

This experiment is just like when a doctor hits your knee with the rubber mallet, your leg pops up.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:28 PM on March 7, 2011


When God granted man dominion over the animals, I doubt that this is what He had in mind.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:40 PM on March 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


This experiment is just like when a doctor hits your knee with the rubber mallet, your leg pops up.

Well, except when the doctor does that there is a purpose other than "wow, cool app" entertainment. (Also the brain is ganglia).
posted by vapidave at 8:44 PM on March 7, 2011


Also the brain is ganglia

...er? Ganglia is generally a term that refers to a collection of neurons outside the central nervous system. The basal ganglia are the only exception I'm aware of.
posted by IjonTichy at 9:00 PM on March 7, 2011


The ganglia spread throughout their bodies refers to the peripheral nervous system, not the basal ganglia.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:05 PM on March 7, 2011


Yeah, I know, my point was that saying "the brain is ganglia" is silly.
posted by IjonTichy at 9:07 PM on March 7, 2011


I clicked the link. Damn.
posted by humannaire at 9:11 PM on March 7, 2011


Sorry Ijon, I wasn't replying to you.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:23 PM on March 7, 2011


Ganglion. That little collection of nerve cells in your knee is a little brain. The only distinction is it being at the periphery rather than inside your head. It's a distinction without a difference that.

"Ganglia often interconnect with other ganglia to form a complex system of ganglia known as a plexus. Ganglia provide relay points and intermediary connections between different neurological structures in the body, such as the peripheral and central nervous systems [em mine]."

Yeah, I know, my point was that saying "the brain is ganglia" is silly.
is like saying a transistor radio doesn't have transistors.

I've been wrong before and will be again no doubt. I'd rather swallow some arrogant pride today but I don't see where my cite above is wrong.
posted by vapidave at 9:48 PM on March 7, 2011


Can we somehow program roaches to kill other roaches and then kill themselves? Like a guard-roach.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:25 PM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know, there was a movie sort of about that, LovecraftInBrooklyn...
posted by Samizdata at 10:37 PM on March 7, 2011


>
When God granted man dominion over the animals, I doubt that this is what He had in mind.


I dunno. When God granted man dominion over the animals, this may be exactly what He had in mind.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:49 PM on March 7, 2011


BTW this is a pretty cool DIY project but was done by researchers ~10 years ago.

The amazing thing is not that the roach dances but that he dances with off-the-shelf hardware.
posted by DU at 5:16 AM on March 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


But my most pressing question is, what kind of roach is that, anyways?

The caption for one of the videos mentions Discoid Roaches. They are evidently prized for their high meat to shell ratio.
posted by TedW at 7:32 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can we somehow program roaches to kill other roaches and then kill themselves?

Sounds like a job for a Judas roach.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:36 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


fido, you're next.
posted by cashman at 7:50 AM on March 8, 2011


"Ganglion. That little collection of nerve cells in your knee is a little brain. The only distinction is it being at the periphery rather than inside your head."

Well, that's what the word "ganglion" means, though: a little collection of nerve cells outside the central nervous system--and the central nervous system is what people are normally referring to when they say "brain". The fact that a very, very large amount of nerve cells is collected in a single place, rather than scattered throughout the body, is what makes a brain a brain, and this has significant computational effects. (Information is transmitted very slowly in the nervous system, compared to in a computer; far-flung neurons can't communicate with each other as well.)
posted by IjonTichy at 8:36 AM on March 8, 2011


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