Sunday, 10 July 2016
My latest paper just got published on the floating arm trick: Voluntary motor commands reveal awareness and control of involuntary movement.
It builds on the stuff covered in this write up and video and is about how the brain inhibits different types of body movements.
More of my research
Friday, 14 August 2015
Here is how you can easily experience the 'floating arm trick' or Kohnstamm phenomenon.
Apparently science has fully explained this phenomenon: Floating Arm Trick Finally Explained by Science
Unfortunately, some idiots still insist on studying it: Obstructing the floating arms
Sunday, 12 April 2015
There is a place in the forever-now
Where boundless water, invisible light
Suspends an object on the deep
Once moved but never moored
Five islands branching into view
Earth playful enough to disclose?
Or turrets raised, to ward off ships?
Slain beast in crimson repose?
A slab of fat
A wall, an end, a screen
A maker, a language, a holder, a clap
Events divinely obscene
I watch the shape,
I count the waves
On idle days I see it flit
Just twitches of perspective though
And yes I can admit,
I’ve shouted once or twice with vain hopes of reply
I’ve even asked its name before
And then with laugher cry
I cannot know you, that fact is clear
No reflection of mine to disturb
I am an idea of something else
A noun slung next to a verb
To reach, to clasp, to tumble
Is this the right word?
Painting by Maiko Goshima
Monday, 24 June 2013
The mayflies drip upon the film
Their corkscrews now unspun
Through mottled lateral lines we sense
Vibrations build and run
In tandem then we rise and fall
Breach tenderly in shade
As willow fronds brush summer on
And reed beds lie unmade
Is now the time to gorge and dream
Of distant waters seething?
Of moments sped to nauseous tilt
Gills crimson, shallow breathing?
Such scenes defy Time’s devilish ways
No self, no arrow’s story
A billion moments all at once
The chaos spawns the glory
Sunday, 20 May 2012
Tuesday, 27 March 2012
My father was a military man who placed a tremendous importance on physical fitness. He abhorred technology and the perils of the modern world.
“Little of merit has occurred this century”, he would proclaim, “man is weak in the eyes of his creations”. I would dutifully listen to these oracular pronouncements, watching his frenetic and clichéd moustache by the light of a paraffin lamp. He was flawed. I believed in him strongly.
As part of my training, father would make me walk the full length of a Saxon earthwork five times a week. The earthwork had been built 1400 years ago using only hand tools. It was 8km long: “as long as Everest is tall”, my father would say, before invariably continuing “10 meters high, carved from the land by proud English men and women”. My father had been known to fight men in pubs if they repeated the oft-quoted myth that the earthwork’s ditch had been created by the tail of the Devil. He hated their glib and facile attitudes towards the Wonder. Each time I walked it he would escort me to the starting point in the village of Reach, have an ale, and then ride his horse to the woods near Little Ditton, where he would meet me at dusk.
It was during one of these walks that I first encountered the Wire Man. Snow had fallen and the glare from the bouncing sun was piercing. I stopped to catch my breath after ascending a steep crest of the earthwork. Through the silence and wet branches I saw a man. He stood in an adjacent field, echoing my stance, but quite alien to my senses. Black and metallic; amorphous, he would at one moment be made from fine chicken wire and the next from wrought steel beams as wide as railway girders. I did not panic. His presence seemed benign. I continued to walk, intrigued to see if he would follow. The Wire Man obliged.
Over the next few years the Wire Man was seldom absent from my walks. He would trek alongside me quietly, clambering over hedges as he passed across field after field. From my vantage point on the earthworks I could examine him, though I sensed he did not like this, as whenever I stared for too long he would develop bright fires in his empty head that would rage and grow until I looked away. The Wire Man did not conform to physical laws. He could be many sizes at once and did not always walk on the ground. I began to spot him everywhere. In towns he would dart behind walls to avoid people seeing him. On the train I would notice him running alongside; sometimes jumping up at the windows, sometimes a busy speck on the horizon.
The first person I spoke to about the Wire Man was a woman called Jane who I met at University. We had just had sex for the first time and I felt an overwhelming urge to build something concrete between us in place of the bodies we had recently cast aside. She suggested that I might like to talk to some of my friends about the Wire Man instead. My friends seemed interested, but they soon grew bored with the topic and began to exchange sinister looks with one another when it was raised. Dave was the exception. He was training to be a psychiatrist and took many notes. Years later, in a provincial library, I found a paper he had written about the Wire Man buried in the palsied pages of a defunct journal. Apparently, the Wire Man was my father. This did not feel right and I decided Dave was insane. Besides, my father died of pneumonia years earlier.
I stopped talking about the Wire Man soon after university. Jane was now my wife and we had begun trying for children. I took a job at a local paper. The Wire Man was often a distraction. I would see him every day in the corner of the office, contorting into horrible shapes, eyes ablaze. Alcohol helped make his presence bearable. When I was drunk the Wire Man would shrink with the groaning clank of steel in winter. Years passed, I gained promotions and accolades, achieved goals and took up hobbies.
Then one day I realized that the Wire Man no longer followed me. It had been a gradual realization, a growing awareness that flits around the margins of consciousness, yet when it finally landed I felt an incredible sense of loss. I did not understand my pain. It should have been a relief. Life carried on with all its myriad tribulations: the children were fed and grew, dogs arrived and left us for the vet’s needle, we bought and sold houses. I stood amidst this swirling activity and did my best to appear affected and engaged. My family believed in me, especially the children. They soon left home and had their own offspring. Over the years, Jane conducted several affairs to test if I could still be brought to agony. I dutifully wept. Eventually the act seemed unnecessary. I saw the other old people staring listlessly from windows and decided to drift along in the cover of their shadows. The margins grew thicker and darker. When the Wire Man did return I was long gone. He may have looked for me, I cannot say.
Saturday, 17 March 2012
Snowdrops smell like all the best shower gel commercials from your childhood when you crush them with mad abandon in a provincial churchyard.
Sam tries to convince me that she is human as a bulky wren crash-lands against a background of anemone-shaped clouds.
When I am forty-three feet high (and keen to dance on well-kept lawns and kick at koi ponds till the fish make squawking sounds midflight) I sometimes wonder how my massive form will be dissolved by this quaint land.
A field of concrete barley. Four cannons positioned at each corner of the field bombard a quadriplegic scarecrow with neon flares. Knots of overhead powerlines writhe like tethered snakes.
My iphone chases sticks in a sundrenched valley.
The separated ears of a hare. Those last few erratic rotations of a spinning top. Stained tarmac. A Nissan’s blue-grey belch.
To the mystery of a lit cottage ten miles from anything as dusk enfolds the hay and there are five shiny cars on the drive and red faces at the window.
I tell Sam that sometimes when I look into her eyes I see a montage of war atrocities that last 57 minutes and features a voiceover by Kenneth Branagh.
Water slips as if captured with an achingly slow shutter speed. Floating leaves quiver with lost ants. Bramble trellises add a malevolent colouration to the proceedings.
And now Sam the metallurgist from Fife is expatiating on her theory that patched gaps in hedges – the motorist’s inebriated folly – are portals to the only true regret in the universe.
An old man’s olive green jacket hobbles past the post office. The sleeves get caught by a falling manhole cover. Nobody helps it get free. Civilizations rise and fall.
Sunday, 10 July 2011
Here’s to the wretched! the awful and the stumbling
Who prowl our streets as most suck sleep into their pillows mumbling
They are the sick-stained remnants of ghostly buried youth
Who I will shame on office rocks attempting to sound couth
Yet I still crave the moonbeams, those light-fantastic duels
The knee-skin on the cobbles and the gentle crimson pools
And here is to the slut! that strapless, spindly ink
And cackles blue as the vodka, she drains to a glossy chink
Flung limbs connote salvation in fifteen minute slices
But knowing not her language I pamper other vices
Until in tearful reveries, I stalk, I stubbornly ache
And suffer passions mad and strange in that gaudy, perfumed wake
But mostly here’s to you dear friend, you terrible, stoic swine
Supping claret with the great and good, my my the greyness climes
This balance you speak of seems rich indeed – I almost dare not ask
But if life is such an adventure then, in whose light should one bask?