I can say this much: The inventors of RoboRoach achieved the unthinkable and made me sympathize with a cockroach.
For $100 they're selling a kit that lets you control a roach via remote control. First you have to capture the bug and implant it with an electrode. Then you use the remote to send "microstimulation" to the bug's "antenna nerves," sending it skittering right or left in response to phantom stimuli. As this post on Techli observes, to enjoy the full creepy pleasure of RoboRoach you have to be able to first stomach the amateur surgery required to implant the electrode. The device's inventors are blither, however, about its applications, extolling science teachers, "You can use this experimental model to teach your students about current neurotechnology[!]"
Because, yeah, that's exactly the lesson twelve-year-olds are going to take from watching this thing in action.
Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His last article for Ideas was about choosing Congress by lottery.
Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.
Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.
Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.
Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."
Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.
Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.