Monthly Archives: November 2012

Deepwater is still a problem…


Coast Guard approves plan for ROV reinspection

11/23/2012 02:14 PM EST

NEW ORLEANS – BP and Transocean have received approval from the Coast Guard to proceed with another ROV investigation of the Deepwater Horizon wreckage and wellhead site after a sheen was reported by BP on November 2 and verified by satellite imagery.  A joint plan to determine the source of a surface sheen was submitted by the companies on November 9 for review by the Coast Guard.

The plan calls for ROV’s to inspect potential sources of oil in the vicinity of the Deepwater Horizon wellhead and rig wreckage to address the sheen that persists in the area. The mission is scheduled to commence on 3 December under US Coast Guard oversight.

In addition, Captain Duke Walker, Federal On-Scene Coordinator (FOSC) for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill response, tasked BP and Transocean with developing a comprehensive array of options for permanent remediation of oil that could still be contained within wreckage in the vicinity of the original Deepwater Horizon incident.

A sheen was also discovered back on 16 September,  BP undertook ROV operations in October and discovered the containment dome was leaking oil.  Another ROV operation was conducted to cap a containment dome leaks.  No further oil emissions from the containment dome were observed after the cap and plugs were put in place. Video, taken Oct. 25, displaying the capping of the containment dome and plugging of the connection ports on the sides and top of the structure.

The FOSC is also releasing video taken on Thursday, October 25, 2012 showing the successful capping of the cofferdam and plugging of the connection ports on the sides and top of the structure. The cap and plugs were successfully put in place and no further oil emissions from the containment dome were observed. The video can be viewed at:

ROV video Part 1

ROV video Part 2

The Gulf Coast Incident Management Team remains committed to the continued cleanup of the Gulf Coast and all shorelines affected as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion. The FOSC will continue response activities to remove all oil where it is technologically feasible, environmentally beneficial and safe for workers to perform recovery operations.

To report all pollution incidents contact the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802 or the Coast Guard 8th District command center at 504-589-6225 in the event of any marine emergencies.

5 Creepy Forms of Mind Control You’re Exposed to Daily


5 Creepy Forms of Mind Control You’re Exposed to Daily

By: January 23, 2012 1,616,361 views
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One of our favorite subjects is the way marketers can use psychology to manipulate you into doing what they want (we don’t think “brainwashing” is too strong a word).

We know what you’re thinking: You’re far too cynical to fall for the ads you fast forward through on your DVR or the little tricks employed by marketers and politicians to push your subconscious buttons. But are you sure? Because science has found …

#5. The Color of a Pill Can Trick You into Thinking It’s Working


Remember when Neo got to choose between the red pill and the blue pill? The blue pill would have put him back to sleep in the fake world of cubicles and steaks in the Matrix, where the red pill would wake him up to the real world and its industrial womb factory. You probably just chalked that scene up to another case of Hollywood turning a complicated situation into a simplistic metaphor, but what you probably didn’t realize is that you’re living out your own little Matrix scenario every time you go to the pharmacy.

“I really hope being swallowed by a mirror is covered by my insurance.”

What? How?

Did you notice how the red pill would let Neo “wake up” to the real world, but the blue pill would let him stay “asleep” in the dream world? Now go to your pharmacy. What color are all of the sleeping pills?

Blue, blue and blue — if not the package, then the pill itself. That’s not coincidence; researchers have found that the color of a pill makes a difference in how it works. In one study, every patient was given the exact same sedative, but some patients received it in a blue pill and others in an orange pill. The blue pill takers reported falling asleep 30 minutes faster, and sleeping 30 minutes longer, than the orange pill takers.

What the hell? It’s yet another weird manifestation of the placebo effect. You probably already know that you can give a guy with a headache a Tic Tac and tell him it’s medicine, and there’s a good chance it will fix his headache just like an aspirin would, for reasons science doesn’t completely understand. Well, it turns out that that already illogical and somewhat insane phenomenon is also affected by the color of the pill. The reason is that how you perceive effectiveness affects effectiveness — and when it comes to stuff you consume, color matters.

So, in a different experiment, subjects were told they were going to get a sedative or a stimulant, when in fact they were getting neither — all of the pills were placebos. Yet 66 percent of the subjects who took blue pills reported feeling less alert, compared to only 26 percent of those who took pink pills. That’s because we’ve been trained to think that blue = sleep.

Also blue = drowning, and certain types of poisonous reptiles. Sweet dreams!

In a different study, when researchers put various fake medicine packages in front of subjects, the subjects picked certain colors of boxes over others. Warm colors like brown and red were perceived as more potent, especially if the shades were darker. Green and yellow, on the other hand, might as well have been 7Up-flavored Tic Tacs as far as the subjects were concerned. And this is why heart medicines are often red and brown, while skin medicines are yellow and sleeping pills are often blue or green. Painkillers, on the other hand, are often white … maybe to remind us of opium? We’re not sure.

All we remember is consuming ghosts whole, and then the long silence.

Wait, it gets even stupider. Color associations are also cultural. Maybe in America blue is a calming, peaceful color, but in Italy it’s associated with the national soccer team. So researchers found that, rather than making him drowsy, a blue pill would send an Italian man screaming and singing and rioting into the night.

#4. “Priming” Can Play Us Like Puppets

Quick: When’s the last time you bought flowers at a grocery store? Never? Yet when you walk through the door at most grocery chains, what’s the first thing you see? Here’s what’s right inside the door at Whole Foods:


And here’s Kroger:


What the hell? These are grocery stores, people are there to buy food. Why would they lead off with a fringe product that 99 percent of the shoppers probably won’t even look at? It has to do with the subtle science of mind control known as priming.

Yes, it is entirely possible to manipulate people into certain behaviors without them knowing it. We’re not talking about subliminal suggestion, the disproven gimmick that claimed it could make people buy products by inserting hidden messages in movies. No, the real technique is priming, and it’s as sinister as a windowless white van at a playground.

“It’s goddamn tangerines and muesli again. That van guy is the worst.”

What? How?

The idea behind the flowers is that, as we’ve touched on elsewhere, hitting you with a product that is highly perishable yet fresh will “prime” you into thinking of freshness, and that you will carry that “freshness” mindset with you all the way back to the discount meat case. It sounds like bullshit — humans don’t connect completely unrelated ideas like that, right? Yet it’s confirmed pretty much every time they test it.

Sometimes “priming” is as simple as finding that people will keep a room cleaner if it smells like disinfectant — that subtle reminder is enough to make people think, “This is a clean room, I should keep it clean.” But when you see how far they can take this, it gets weird.

“Can we try to keep the murder room confined to one area, please?”

In one study, scientists instructed volunteers to form sentences using words associated with old people, under the guise that it was a language proficiency test. So, one sentence could have been “The Depends were too elderly (in Florida.)” That’s just an example we made up. So these hip, presumably liberal young college students were pumped with terms associated with the elderly, and guess what happened next?

No, they didn’t hike up their pants to their nipples and start watching Jay Leno. But as they left the study, they walked slower than the students who were given neutral words earlier. The students primed to think of elderly stereotypes took on characteristics they associated with the elderly. Seriously, this happened. And you can get the same result in infinite ways; in another experiment, those who were primed with words conveying rudeness (like “aggressively,” “bold,” “rude,” “bother,” “disturb” and “intrude”) interrupted the experimenter more frequently during a conversation after the tests.

They also found a clipboard embedded in their foreheads later on, but that was probably just a coincidence.

Wait, it gets stupider than that. In yet another study, researchers set up a devious experiment where students accidentally bumped into a klutz on the way to the session. Their bump partner held either a hot or a cold drink, which he or she asked the unknowing patsy to hold for a second while they collected their shit. When the students actually got to the study, they were asked to rate a hypothetical person’s personality. The subjects who had held an iced tea earlier were more likely to call the fake persona “cold” or “selfish” than the students who held a cup of hot coffee. Some base association with cold and warmth at the subconscious level was enough to affect their conscious judgment.

“Hmm. I’d say the person was fuzzy and likely to consume their young.”

So the next time you see an ad on TV, take a moment to notice the show or scene preceding the ad. Because advertisers are paying more for placement that will prime the viewer. For instance, OnStar ran ads for its emergency vehicle service during a commercial break that came right after a car crash scene in The Bourne Supremacy. It was worth it, because studies show that that little bit of priming makes people twice as likely to buy the product.

#3. Our Views on a Subject Depend on How It’s Phrased

You’re probably already aware that minor changes to the wording of a survey can alter people’s opinions. During the health care debate, for example, four separate organizations conducted polls to see what percentage of Americans supported a so-called “public option.” Their results ranged from a measly 44 percent to 66 percent support, due in large part to differences in wording. Calling it a “government administered health insurance plan — something like the Medicare coverage that people 65 and older get” garnered 66 percent support. And calling it “a government-run health insurance plan” plummeted support to 44 percent. Calling it “Just what Mussolini would have wanted” reduced the number to 2 percent.


You might think that it’s just a matter of people not actually understanding how the system works (“I said I wanted Medicare, not GOVERNMENT!”), but it really is all about how the brain can be manipulated with very subtle differences in wording, regardless of your knowledge level.

What? How?

In this study, social psychologists sent out surveys to several hundred registered voters before an election. Half the recipients were asked if it was “important to vote.” The other half were asked if it was “important to be a voter.” With this one difference, the people who read the word “voter” were nearly 14 percent more likely to actually vote on Election Day. The researchers suspected that using the word “voter” caused people to identify themselves with the word. Since these people considered themselves to be voters, they were more likely to get out and vote.

“I was called a motherfucker, too, but that’s on everyone’s manifesto.”

On the other hand, using the word “vote” implied that the survey was asking the people to perform a task. Even if they answered “yes” to the question, they felt no association with the word (i.e., they weren’t voters, they were just being told to vote), so they were less likely to follow through. One was about a simple action, the other was about being a type of person.

So what happens if someone implies that you’re a “gamer” or a “runner” or a “hooker”? You do the math.

If you’re a “mather.”

#2. You Emotionally Bond With People You Sing With


There’s not very much we know about the people of North Korea, but we do know they love to do things in unison. Watch a few minutes of this footage from the North Korean Mass Games to see what we mean:

It’s nice how Kim Jong Il can’t be bothered to give much of a damn during the whole thing. Can you even imagine the months it took to put together that monstrosity? And for what? To put on a show for a guy who glibly flips through a magazine halfway through? Except, oh wait. There’s a lot more to these exercises than impressing the dear leader. And whatever it is the participants are getting out of their involvement with this performance, you’ve probably experienced it as well.

Oh God, it’s the same expression that our fathers had when we explained what we did for a living.

What? How?

Ever been to a sporting event in America? A football game, baseball game, an anything in a stadium? What did you do first, once you found your seats and got your drinks and settled in for the game? You stood back up and sang the national anthem with everyone else. Guess what? Scientists have discovered that when we perform synchronized activities such as singing songs, reciting chants or even as simple an act as walking together, we end up feeling more connected to the people we’re performing these activities with.

“We share everything but synchronized boners.”

Because it turns out it’s not what you’re saying or singing or chanting that matters. It’s just the fact that you’re performing these activities in unison with other people. Researchers at Stanford University found that when volunteers were instructed to walk around campus together, the simple difference between letting them walk normally versus instructing them to walk in step with each other increased the volunteers’ willingness to cooperate with each other afterward.

Even more surprisingly, how harmonious the participants felt had nothing to do with any positive emotions created by the synchronized activities themselves. Whether or not they enjoyed performing the activities, they simply became more cooperative with each other. The researchers concluded that “synchrony rituals” may therefore have evolved as a way for societies to get individuals to work together and be willing to make personal sacrifices for the benefit of the group.

“Put your right hand over your … eh, you’re good, buddy.”

Hell, why else would every country have a national anthem? Why would every military make their troops march and chant in unison?

#1. Cars Have Facial Expressions, and We Buy Accordingly


The human mind loves to see human faces in everything; tortillas, clouds, cat butts, the moon, other faces, everything. The phenomenon even has a name: pareidolia. Knowing this, would you want to live in the Hitler house?

D Legakis / Athena
Number nein, on the reich.

Or a cardboard box that looked perpetually befuddled?

Even the homeless have their standards.

When making faces out of things, we don’t just say, “Hey, that cloud looks like Abraham Lincoln” or “That scab looks like Al Roker.” We give the face emotions, presumably based on which way its eyebrows and mouth are going. And researchers at the University of Vienna found that we therefore subconsciously tack on those emotions to, say, cars. In other words, we did half of Pixar’s work for them in 2006.

We had to, because they clearly couldn’t give a shit whether these guys were relatable.

What? How?

It’s easy to see it — every car has two headlights (eyes), a grill (mouth) and maybe something that looks like a nose. So, knowing we assign emotions to objects, you’d think that most of us would pick the happiest-looking cars we could find. Like we’d all be clamoring for vintage Volkswagen Beetles.

After cleaning Lindsay Lohan’s vomit off the back seats.

You’d be wrong. When we drive, we’re not out there to make friends, unless you’re a hippie, and then shouldn’t you be on a bike or a donkey or something? Nope, what we want to convey is toughness, speed, aggression. So we want our cars to have the face of a monster. Or at least a mean dude. Researchers found that lower, wider cars with a wide air intake and angled or slit-like headlights give a picture of power. Not sleepiness, as you’d expect, but power. And that’s what drivers are looking for when picking out new vehicles. At least, when picking out certain kinds of vehicles.

That’s why the Dodge Charger looks pissed:


But not as mad as this Bugatti Veyron concept:


You can even see this in the boring, tame old Honda Civic. Here’s the standard sedan model, for the moms out there:

Thin-lipped disapproval included.

Now here’s the sport model:


Do you see the little difference? The scowl? Maybe this will help:

Wow. We’re … we’re kinda sorry we had to illustrate that.

12 Food Additives to Avoid


12 Food Additives to Avoid

Posted by on May 24th, 2009 

Whoever coined the term food additives had it all wrong. Including something new in a food doesn’t always add up to more, at least when it comes to your health. Studies that test the safety of additives are based on animal trials. It is difficult to deduce whether the results of an animal study equate to human health, though many of these studies show that some additives could be cancer-causing.

1. Sodium nitrite
The list of the 12 most dangerous additives to red flaguntil we know moreincludes the preservative sodium nitrite, used to preserve, color, and flavor meat products. Sodium nitrite is commonly added to bacon, ham, hot dogs, luncheon meats, smoked fish, and corned beef to stabilize the red color and add flavor. The preservative prevents growth of bacteria, but studies have linked eating it to various types of cancer. “This would be at the top of my list of additives to cut from my diet,” says Christine Gerbstadt, M.D., M.P.H., R.D., L.D.N., a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. “Under certain high-temperature cooking conditions such as grilling, it transforms into a reactive compound that has been shown to promote cancer.”
2. BHA and BHT
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydrozyttoluene (BHT) are additional additives to red flag. They are antioxidants used to preserve common household foods by preventing them from oxidizing. Both keep fats and oils from going rancid and are found in cereals, chewing gum, potato chips, and vegetable oils, but there is concern that they may cause cancer. “The structure of BHA and BHT will change during this process [of preserving food], and may form a compound that reacts in the body,” says Gerbstadt. “BHA and BHT are not stable or inert. They’re not just hanging out and being excreted by the body.” Gerbstadt says that they are obviously not added for the purpose of giving people cancer, but for some people, some of the time, there may be that risk.
3. Propyl gallate
Propyl gallate is another preservative to avoid. It’s used to prevent fats and oils from spoiling and is often used in conjunction with BHA and BHT. This additive is sometimes found in meat products, chicken soup base, and chewing gum. Propyl gallate has not been proven to cause cancer, but studies done on animals have suggested that it could be linked to cancer, so it is an additive to be concerned about. “It’s important to read the label,” says Gerbstadt. “You really have to carry a cheat sheet around in the supermarket. I try to buy as few foods as possible containing preservatives.” 
4. Monosodium glutamate
Monosodium glutamate is an amino acid used as a flavor enhancer in soups, salad dressings, chips, frozen entrees, and restaurant food. It is commonly associated with Asian foods and flavorings. MSG can cause headaches and nausea in some people, and animal studies link it to damaging nerve cells in the brains of infant mice. Gerbstadt recommends replacing MSG with a small amount of salt when possible. “Why bother using MSG when you can live without it?” she says. “MSG can cause migraine-like headaches and create other adverse affects for certain people. It is a flavor enhancer, but you’d be better of putting in a few grains of salt.”
5. Trans fats
Trans fat makes it onto our dirty dozen list because eating too much of it leads to heart disease. “Trans fats are proven to cause heart disease, and make conditions perfect for stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, and limb loss due to vascular disease,” says Gerbstadt. “It would be wonderful if they could be banned.” Manufacturers have modified product ingredients lists to reduce the amount of trans fats, and are required to label trans fats amounts, but restaurant food, especially fast food chains, still serve foods laden with trans fats. Experts recommend we consume no more than two grams of trans fat per day, an amount easily accounted for if you eat meat and dairy.
6. Aspartame
Aspartame, also known by the brand names Nutrasweet and Equal, is an additive found in so-called diet foods such as low-calorie desserts, gelatins, drink mixes, and soft drinks. It also comes in individual packages used in place of sugar as a sweetener. The safety of aspartame, a combination of two amino acids and methanol, has been the focus of hundreds of scientific studies. Conclusions by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the World Health Organization, the ADA, and the Food and Agriculture Organization indicated that the additive is safe. Conversely, the Center for Science in the Public Interest gave it their lowest ranking in a review of food additives, quoting animal studies in 1970 and in 2007, which suggest that there is a link between aspartame and cancer. Gerbstadt, spokesperson from the ADA—an organization that supports the general safety of aspartame—says that the additive might be unhealthy for some people—especially those with the disease phenylketonuria, an enzyme disorder—because it contains phenalalanine. “Some people may be sensitive to it, and it’s easy to avoid.
7. Acesulfame-K
This is a relatively new artificial sweetener, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1998 for use in soft drinks. It is also found in baked goods, chewing gum, and gelatin desserts. Acesulfame-K—the “K” is the chemistry symbol for potassium—is considered 200 times sweeter than sugar. While Gerbstadt isn’t specifically concerned about this sweetener when used in moderation, there is a general concern that testing on this product has been scant. Some studies showed the additive may cause cancer in rats, but the substance makes top 12 lists of additives to avoid because further study is needed to conclude whether or not acesulfame-K is harmful.
8. Food colorings: Blue 1, 2; Red 3; Green 3; and Yellow 6
You may think that all dangerous artificial food colorings were banned by the FDA long ago, but there are five still on the market that are linked with cancer in animal testing. “Always opt for the product without the color, if you have a choice,” says Gerbstadt. “I’m not saying to avoid all coloring. Many are made from natural sources. But some specific dye colors do promote tumor formation, in the right combination and conditions.” Blue 1 and 2, found in beverages, candy, baked goods and pet food, are considered low risk but have been linked to cancer in mice. Red 3, used to dye cherries, fruit cocktail, candy, and baked goods, has been shown to cause thyroid tumors in rats. Green 3, added to candy and beverages, though rarely used, has been linked to bladder cancer. Studies have linked the widely used yellow 6—added to beverages, sausage, gelatin, baked goods, and candy—to tumors of the adrenal gland and kidney.
9. Olestra
Olestra, a synthetic fat known as the brand name Olean and found in some brands of potato chips, prevents fat from getting absorbed in your digestive system. This often leads to severe diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and gas. “If you eat fat when taking Olestra, the fat is going to go right through you,” says Gerbstadt. More significantly, though, Olestra inhibits healthy vitamin absorption from fat-soluble carotenoids that are found in fruits and vegetables and thought to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. “It blocks fat absorption, but it also blocks vitamin absorption,” says Gerbstadt.
10. Potassium bromate
Potassium bromate is rare, but still legal in the U.S., and used as an additive to increase volume in white flour, breads, and rolls. Most bromate rapidly breaks down to an innocuous form, but it is known to cause cancer in animals—and even small amounts in bread can create a risk for humans. California requires a cancer warning on the product label if potassium bromate is an ingredient. 
11. White sugar
Some foods, such as fruits and carrots, naturally contain sugar, but watch out for foods with added sugars, such as baked goods, cereals, crackers, even sauces and many other processed foods. Gerbstadt includes white sugar on the list of 12 because although it is non-toxic, large amounts are unsafe for our health and promote bad nutrition. “Simple sugars shouldn’t take up more than about 10 percent of the total calories you consume daily,” says Gerbstadt. Yet most Americans already are eating way over that amount, consuming 20, 30, or 40 percent of their calories from simple sugars, she says. Too much sugar not only leads to problems with weight control, tooth decay and blood sugar levels in diabetics; it also replaces good nutrition. “In addition to providing unnecessary calories, your body needs nutrients to metabolize sugar, so it robs your body of valuable vitamins and minerals,” says Gerbstadt.
12. Sodium chloride
A dash of sodium chloride, more commonly known as salt, can certainly bring flavor to your meal. But salt is another hidden food additive that can lead to health issues. “Small amounts of salt are needed by the body and are beneficial in preserving food,” says Gerbstadt. “Excessive amounts of salt can become dangerous for your health, affecting cardiovascular function, leading to high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure.”
Article by: Jean Weiss

The 6 Most Mind-Blowing Ways Your Brain Can Malfunction


The 6 Most Mind-Blowing Ways Your Brain Can Malfunction

There is nothing we take for granted as much as sanity. No matter what “crazy” unexpected thing might happen at the office tomorrow, you still know that you’re not going to show up and find, say, your boss replaced by a talking guitar.

But as we have explored before, there are mental disorders that can mess with your perception of reality in unimaginable ways, while often leaving the rest of your mind untouched.

Disorders like ..

Fregoli Syndrome

Imagine you get into an argument with your asshole roommate about the unpaid rent. You need to let off some steam, so you call your girlfriend to see if she wants to go for a nice burrito somewhere, but for some reason it’s your asshole roommate on the end of the line and he’s calling you “honey.” So you hang up and go outside, but your asshole roommate is waving at you from the neighbor’s yard.
Apparently Mr. Moneybags has enough cash for two rents.

Furious, you go to the local bar, only to find that your asshole roommate is the one pouring the drinks. Ten minutes and two black eyes later, you find yourself getting arrested by your asshole roommate.

The Condition:

Fregoli syndrome is the delusion that some or all of the people you meet during the course of a day are actually the same person. It’s named after a famous actor who was able to change costumes rapidly onstage. As you would expect, Fregoli sufferers are frequently paranoid, as they reasonably assume that some master of disguise is fucking with them. Or maybe some kind of shape-shifting wizard.
Keep practicing, buddy. You can be James Hetfield, but you can’t be all of Metallica.

The disorder comes with different degrees of severity, though. Sometimes, sufferers don’t know exactly who is stalking them, but everybody looks really familiar somehow. It’s like waking up to find your town populated entirely by people who went to your high school that you never spoke to much. One guy was known to just walk up to everybody and ask where they’d met before.

Fregoli syndrome also makes for an interesting insanity stew when it tag-teams with other disorders. For instance, a woman who was diagnosed with the condition also suffered from schizophrenia and something called erotomania, the belief that someone is in love with you when they aren’t. She believed that actor Erik Estrada was in love with her, communicated with her telepathically and disguised himself to show up in her daily life in the form of her acquaintances and current boyfriend.

This is someone’s fantasy.

It’s such a sad story that we’re hoping someday it will turn out she was right all along, and Mr. Estrada will be arrested.

Mirrored-Self Misidentification

You wake up in the middle of the night and shuffle down the hall to the bathroom. You stumble in and flick on the light, and look up at the mirror on the medicine cabinet over your sink.

A stranger is standing there. He’s staring right at you, as surprised to see you as you are to see him. You scream, “Get the hell out of my bathroom, you pervert! Go look at someone else’s dick!” but the man only screams your own words back at you.
“Bring it on, buddy, I can do this all day.”

The Condition:

People suffering from a disorder called mirrored-self misidentification have a breakdown with the part of their brain that understands how reflections work, so when they look at a mirror, their brain tells them they’re looking at a stranger through a window. On a rational level, they understand what mirrors are and what they do, but they maintain the strong impression that their reflection is some nefarious doppelganger. It shows up mostly in Alzheimer’s patients, but even then it’s rare.

Scientists study the disorder by presenting subjects with a mirror, then holding up an object behind them and asking them to grab it. People without the disorder will turn around and reach for the object behind them, but someone who suffers from the condition tries to reach through the mirror, providing hours of quality entertainment for the researchers.
“You guys are DICKS!

One patient known as TH described the man in his mirror as “a dead ringer” for himself. He would even try to talk to his reflection, though their conversations were a little one-sided. TH did not particularly dislike this person, saying he had no reason to be suspicious of him. He believed that this man lived in the apartment adjoining his own. (There was no apartment adjoining his own.)
And they liked to look at each other while masturbating.

Visual Agnosia

You go to the grocery store to pick up your weekly supply of Red Bull and Febreeze, but you quickly realize that something is a little off. Specifically, all of the products you pick up scream and fight back when you try to shove them into your cart. Worse, when you finally get to the register, a potted fern asks if you’re paying by cash or charge.
“Hey, asshole, my fronds are up here.”

The Condition:

Visual agnosia is caused by a dysfunction in some of the brain’s visual processing areas, the result of which is that you’re unable to correctly identify things for what they are. And we’re not talking about confusing a dog with a cat from a distance; we’re talking about looking at your brother and trying to cram bread into his hair because you think he’s the toaster.

If you think we made up that example to be funny, the neurologist Oliver Sacks described a patient in the book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat who, at the end of an interview, grabbed his wife’s head and tried to put it on his own head. According to the wife, this was the kind of bullshit she had to put up with every day.
“Sick bastard just walked up and started dry-humpin’ my head.”

People suffering from visual agnosia are stuck seeing the world kind of the way a space rover on Mars does. When a person with a normally functioning brain looks at something familiar, like a rose, she sees a bunch of shapes and colors and her brain automatically tells her what that thing is. The process is so lightning fast that you aren’t even aware of it.

But it is a process and it can break down. Agnosia sufferers are permanently trapped in the shapes-and-colors stage. Sacks’ patient looked at a rose and described it literally as “a convoluted red form with a linear green attachment.” It’s kind of like being blind, except you have some jackass following you around describing things to you and making you figure out what those things are on your own. For the rest of your life.

“Convoluted red form with a linear green attachment … Rose McGowan?”

Mercifully, visual agnosia is just that — a visual disorder. Sufferers retain the ability to identify things by using their other senses. Sacks’ patient was able to recognize the rose when he smelled it.

Pause here and take a moment to thank your brain for all of the shit it does in the background just so you can get around every day.

“I sure hope none of those convoluted gray shapes are people!”


You sit down in the morning to a cup of coffee, and to work the maze on the back of the Lucky Charms box. Your nose itches, and suddenly somebody else reaches over to scratch it.

Then this person grabs your coffee mug and brings it to your lips. You’re starting to wonder who this is and why he’s being so helpful, considering that you live alone. It’s then that you realize, to your horror, that you’ve actually had someone else’s arm grafted onto your shoulder and the goddamn thing is acting all innocent about it.
And the thing is really good with kids, too!

The Condition:

People with somatoparaphrenia suffer damage to the brain’s homunculus region or “body map.” That’s the part of your brain that catalogs all the parts of your body and keeps track of them so you know where all your limbs are without actually looking at them. If you have a stroke or something that messes with your brain, however, it can actually lose track of one of your limbs. And this really, really messes with your head. It makes it so that you can still move the limb and still register feeling — you just don’t recognize it as yours.

In one documented case, a man denied ownership of an arm and a foot, and while he didn’t know where the foot came from (it was a “big foot only suited for work”), he figured for some reason that the arm belonged to a woman he knew named Maria.
She did have some guns, though.

In some cases, the experience of having someone else’s body parts attached to you is so stressful that people will actually try to get the foreign limbs chopped off. In 1997, a man approached surgeon Robert Smith and asked him to amputate his left leg, which he believed wasn’t his. Apparently shooting for the title of World’s Most Unethical Surgeon, Smith granted the request, and was immediately swamped by people wanting him to cut off their alien limbs. He actually made a decent living cutting off people’s healthy body parts until the hospital ordered him to stop, for some reason.
“Yeah, that feels much better. Thanks, Doc.”


Imagine you’re in an accident that lands you in the hospital. You’re clearly fine, but you know how doctors are, it’s all about precaution (or padding the bill). So, the doctor asks if you can move your legs. It’s the tenth time he’s asked you to do this today, even though you clearly can. This doctor, who is clearly the worst doctor in the world, just shakes his head sadly and tells you he doesn’t think you’ll ever walk again.

It’s at this point when you start wondering if this is in fact a real doctor, or if a janitor is just impersonating one like in that episode of Scrubs.

Though we’d probably go to that hospital because he’s awesome.

The Condition:

Anosognosia is a delusion suffered by paralyzed people that they are not, in fact, paralyzed. And it’s incredibly common — according to some studies, over half of people with hemiplegia (stroke-induced paralysis on one side) will have anosognosia for at least some amount of time. And to be clear, we’re not talking about people who are in denial, or just too stubborn or proud to admit they’re disabled. They have damage to their right parietal cortex, the area responsible for drawing conscious attention to body perception, movement and sensation.

Patients with anosognosia wind up with the bizarre delusion that their inability to move their limbs is not because they can’t, but because they don’t want to. When prompted to move a paralyzed limb, patients will make up excuses to convince the doctor (and themselves) that their noncompliance is actually a conscious choice, like their arm hurts from arthritis, or that they don’t move their limb just because the man tells them to.
Incidentally, it’s the same excuse used in many 3 a.m. sobriety tests.

However, some people, like neurologist Vilayanur Ramachandran, believe that, while the patients aren’t lying per se, there might be some subconscious knowledge of their condition. When Ramachandran asked a woman to touch her nose with her paralyzed left hand, she didn’t just make up excuses not to do so; eventually, she just grabbed her left arm with her working right arm and guided it to her nose, like, “Oh, yeah, I always do it this way.”
“See, I can sit up on my own just fine.”


Imagine you walk downstairs one morning to find someone cooking scrambled eggs. The person smiles at you, but you don’t go in for a kiss because you’re not sure if it’s your wife, or your son, or your uncle Joe who is staying for the weekend. Later you’re at work, and someone asks you to do something, but you don’t know if it’s your boss (in which case you should comply) or that jackass from two cubicles down trying to get you to do his work so he can go back to linking all of his paper clips together in one huge chain.

Every person you run into is a total stranger … even though you’ve seen them every day, for years.

You must have a conversation with Criss Angel, REO Speedwagon or Carrot Top. Distinguish.

The Condition:

What we’re describing is prosopagnosia, the inability to recognize faces. There are different levels of this — whenever you hear someone say they are “bad with faces,” chances are they suffer from some form of prosopagnosia. About 2 percent of the population has a mild case of it, and it’s more pronounced in people with conditions along the autism spectrum.

But then you have the severe cases, the people who can’t tell even their family and friends apart from total strangers. Sometimes, they can’t even recognize themselves.

“Frankly, I don’t see the resemblance.”

To understand what it’s like, imagine trying to distinguish one dolphin from another, or trying to pick one chicken out of a police lineup. You couldn’t, unless one had some distinguishing feature, like say if the chicken was wearing a tiny beret or if the dolphin had a swastika tattoo. The only reason that humans can tell other humans apart is that we have a specially developed area of the brain just for that. Back in the Stone Age, it became evolutionarily advantageous to know your bros from the total douchebags who steal your scraps of meat. Being able to greet your favorite chicken by name before you kill and eat it? Slightly less important.
“I dub thee … Beakface Squeakything!”

Granted, everyone has had that awkward moment when they’re shaking hands with someone they know at a party but can’t place their face and can’t quite remember their name. For people with prosopagnosia, this is almost every encounter they have. Enjoying a movie? Impossible — they can’t tell who any of the characters are unless they say their names at the beginning of each line of dialogue.

However, people with prosopagnosia can become ingenious in their techniques for recognizing people, identifying them by memorizing their distinctive features. It works perfectly as long as nobody you know ever gets a haircut.
“OH, I recognize you! You’re the guy who has the beer!”

People with brain disorders get by in much the same way as people with other illnesses or disabilities. For instance, Oliver Sacks, the neurologist we mentioned earlier, has prosopagnosia himself, and once preened his beard using what he thought was his reflection, but was in fact a stranger on the other side of a window. And he did well enough for himself that he got quoted as an expert in a Cracked article.