Monday 24 May 1999

Split head

Pic of the day: Divide and concur. Do we all consist of two entities, separate but equal? (See below.)

Slept till noon today - this is yet another holy-day here in nominally christian Norway. Before I woke up, I dreamt that I was fighting various creatures out of ancient Greek mythology, and I observed that "the larger they are, the harder they fall". My task was made more complicated by the fact that I also had to keep an eye on an autistic teenage girl. No points for guessing that I had read Nova Notes before going to bed, once again...

I'm slowly killing my wrist. By now I can only type a couple of paragraphs before I have to stop. In fact, even thinking about typing makes the typing muscles tense, and my hand and arm start to hurt. I've tried to stick to games that can be operated mainly with one hand, and then use the left, but my brain insists on keeping my right hand ready in any case, so that doesn't work too well either.

I've been typing since I was ca 6 years old (possibly longer) and it would feel really strange not to be able to do that. I'm a very right-handed person, using my right hand for almost anything. On a handedness test in one of Desmond Morris' books, I scored 10 out of 10 right-side (left-brain). That's pretty exceptional: Most people at least cross their arms or legs in an opposite way now and then. Typing is one of the few things I do with both hands. So it's sort of ironic that this is the first to suffer...

As you may know, the two halves of our brain have slightly different talents. In particular the left brain (which controls the right side, and the other way around) is the master of language. In virtually all men and a pretty large minority of women, the left brain controls language all alone. The right brain can cry out and also has the task of doling out curses and obscenities when appropriate, but it can't make sentences. (In most women, the task is distributed between the two halves, and some even have the main speech center on the right side. As far as I know, this difference has yet to be explained.)

The right side of the brain tends to be less logical and more emotional, particularly as applies to negative emotion. It is also considered the most holistic of the two. Perhaps it has just found out that, taken as a whole, life tends to be "nasty, brutish and short". Intriguingly, though, the left brain seems to be the creative one. Research on split brain patients has shown that the right half is fundamentally honest, calling a spade a spade. However, when the two halves were fed completely different images, the left brain didn't see the spade, but some entirely different object. And now comes the funny thing: In a matter of moments, the left brain would come up with a theory that reconciled the actions of the right brain with the input it saw. (Remember, in these patients there is no internal communications between the two brain halves, or next to none. They can however observe each other's use of the body, and coordinate it.) So, basically, the right brain did its stuff, and the left brain made up a seemingly rational explanation for why it had done so. This is sort of frightening, given that the right brain is thought to be the one that usually interfaces with the lower functions such as fear, anger, and sexuality.
It is worth noticing that split-brain patients generally behave not very different from other people in daily life. This could mean that we healthy people don't integrate too well either, but just adapt on the fly. I must admit that it sometimes looks that way.

In other news: As I went for a walk in the rain, the path was so crowded with snails that I had to watch where I put my feet so as to not trample them. Like so often before, I wondered what changes would have to be made to make snails big as cats and dogs. My best guess is that they lack a decent circulatory system that could feed oxygen to the cells in a large body. Certainly some other molluscs - squid - are among the giants of the animal kingdom. It would have been fascinating to have one meter long snails haring around outside when it rained. Now those would be really gross to run over. Slime everywhere.

Blasts from my past:
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