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.
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Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.
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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.