On Electromagnetism and Touching the Void

I remember the first time I saw a video of Italian artist Sonia Cillari's Se Mi Sei Vicino [If You Are Close To Me] from 2007 Ars Electronica. I thought it was quite perfect.
It began as an exploration into measuring human encounters by Cillari, who is an architect and media artist. An 'actor' is set in the middle of a plate that records and translates changes in the electromagnetic field into an undulating digital web that is projected onto the walls in real-time. The electromagnetic field that surrounds us is changed just by nearing another person and our conception of ourselves as bound by our skin is quite erroneous. We shift particles and 'touch' others before we ourselves feel it. As a high-functioning mass of molecules, I would love to just once see the world as the vibrating mass of strings that we believe it is.

This idea of where we stop and the rest of the world begins has fascinated me for a while. I will try to give a few little examples of my research in as succinct a way as possible for someone who gets so excited by the very idea of a stringy world that I have to sit, mouth agape, in my own private rapture for a while.
So here it is.

V.S. Ramachandran is possibly my favourite neuroscientist. He is funny, innovative and endlessly interesting. He has written extensively about a new discovery in the brain, mirror neurons. In the 80s and 90s, five Italian neurophysiologists were working on neuronal substrates for hand movements in macaque monkeys when they noticed a strange occurrence. When one of the researchers went to pick up a piece of food, some of the same neurons would respond as when the monkey itself picked up food. The continuation of this is awesome and wondrous. When we see someone reaching for something, there are neurons that fire exactly as if we ourselves were reaching for something. Why doesn't our brain get confused and think that we are performing the action? Because the sensory nerves on our skin send signals to the brain telling it that it is not. Ramachandran set out to stop that signal and completely numbed the arms of test subjects. Then he had them watch someone else's arm being touched. The subjects 'felt' the touch on their own arms in exactly the same 'place' {actually the corresponding area of the brain map for that part of the arm}. Ramachandran affectionately calls these mirror neurons 'Ghandi neurons' or empathy neurons and believes that they could be responsible for imitation and emulation. This is particularly interesting in light of human development; we acquired a great many new skills around a similar historic period, including language and refined tool use. It could be that the mirror neuron system allowed for that development.

Yinka Shonibare's mirrored dancers

History and academia aside, this is simply a wonderful concept. We are neither detached from the world or confined to our skin. We 'experience' the actions of others. Which leads me to my next point. Speech, rhythm and music.

To be continued.

we, the subscribers to string and super-string theories

{Reference - Sonia Cillari http://www.soniacillari.net/

image - video still from Yinka Shonibare's Odile and Odette}