Tickling Yourself

By Anupum Pant

In most cases tickling yourself is tough. That is because whenever you try to tickle yourself, at the back of your head (yes, really at the back, in a part of the brain called the cerebellum) you know that the sensation was caused as a result of your own movement. That way, the brain is able to predict the sensation and is able to nullify it.

When someone else tries it on you, the brain fails to predict the movement and the somatosensory cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex fire up to make you feel the tickle.

But have you ever tried tickling yourself with a fake hand? It still doesn’t work! Even when you don’t use your direct body part, your brain knows and can predict movement. Unless of course, the fake hand is being used by someone else. It’s interesting but believable that tickling yourself with a fake rubber hand doesn’t fool the brain. But there’s more.

In fact, if you had a tickling robot which could be controlled with a remote control, you still won’t be able to use the remote to operate it and make yourself tickle. While, if some one else had the control and they tried to control the robot to tickle you, you’d feel more ticklish. Unless, there’s a delay. It blows my mind to think about that!

What if, there was a robot which could control the remote control of a tickling robot, and you could control the first one with another remote control. Would you be able to tickle yourself using this contraption? I’m saying no, you still won’t be able to tickle yourself if there was no delay in between. What do you say?

Yes, delay is crucial here. Suppose you had a long contraption which would make movements after a few seconds of delay with respect to the control (which you have in your hand), you’d feel more ticklish, if you tried. Studies say, more the delay, the more ticklish it is.

Note: People with schizophrenia can tickle themselves, using their own hands, fake hand or something else.

Remember, I started the article with “most cases”. That is because there are a couple of ways to tickle yourself successfully. Try making little circles with a soft touch behind your knee for instance. Or use a feather on the sole of your foot. Or, try making circles with your tongue on the roof of your mouth where there’s a ribbed texture…

Build an Autonomous Toothbrush Robot in Minutes

By Anupum Pant

Background

If you are looking for a cool little science project, I think your search should end right here because today I’m sharing with you an awesome way to transform your toothbrush into an autonomous toothbrush robot. This one is just autonomous enough to move around on its own, hit obstacles, turn around and continue. But remember, since it is a fun project that can be completed within minutes (in under $5), you can’t expect a lot out of this basic bot.

Also, I did not invent this thing. I happened to stumble upon a video by Evil Mad Scientist on YouTube that taught me the basic idea of how this thing works. So, cheers to him. However, since my supplies were constrained, I felt a need to find some alternative methods to construct a similar bot. I’ve shared the original video and my own alternatives (in text) under it… You can skip reading the next two sub-headings and watch the video below them.

Here is what you’ll need:

  • A toothbrush (preferably, one with angled bristles)
  • A cellphone vibrator motor
  • Some double side tape
  • and a Button cell

Here is what you do:

Firstly, do not worry if you don’t have the exact materials mentioned above, I’ve suggested some alternative ideas after the video.

Stick on motorCute but unstable

  1. Grab the toothbrush and carefully cut off the handle, we’ll just need the head. Now, this part can be the most difficult because the plastic at the neck can be pretty tough sometimes. If you are not confident, take help from an elder.
  2. Use the double side tape to stick the motor on top of the head in a way that the rotating shaft of the motor doesn’t touch the bush.
  3. Connect the button cell to the terminals of the motor. If the whole bot starts vibrating with the motor, It’s done. Place it on the floor and watch moving…
[Video]

Alternatives

  • Suppose you don’t have a brush with angled bristles. You can just take any other toothbrush and keep it under your mattress for a day to get pressed. The straight bristles turn into angled bristles. I had to do this, so I know.
  • Now, if you don’t have a cellphone vibrator motor, you can use one of these common motors too. All you’ll have to do is stick a piece of clay or tape on the shaft to make a counter weight so the motor vibrates when it rotates. You don’t want it rotating smoothly here.
  • To make the bot turn away better from obstacles, I stuck 3 toothpicks on top of the brush in a way that one of them was sticking out in the front and the other two were pointing out from the sides to form wing like structures.

It hardly takes any effort to try it out and then you’ll have your own bot moving around on the floor of your house. It feels great to watch it move like that! If you can, try making a huge variant. Use a bigger brush, pencil batteries and a bigger motor.

[See this for more details]

Drones beyond Amazon’s Drone Delivery System

By Anupum Pant

For a long time I’ve had this idea noted in a file and the hottest news from Amazon, linked to a “revolutionary drone accomplishment”, pushed me into writing it down. Since I cover topics ranging from a gamut of areas in the name of science, I thought, through this article, it would be appropriate for me to enable my readers see beyond an ongoing viral news topic – The unveiling of Amazon’s drone delivery. If you haven’t seen it already, you’ll find the video here. [Video] [details here]

Long before Amazon released its concept of Premier Air, 30 minute delivery, the idea – usage of drones for things you wouldn’t have thought of – has been tested or put to use in several related ways. Some of the reported tests and uses of drones are as follows:

Drones for food delivery: During June 2013, with an idea (read: PR stunt) that would inspire Amazon in the future, Dominos U.K. released a test video of the “DomiCopter”. In the video they showed an unmanned drone picking up a Pizza and delivering it to the customer without having to encounter any traffic in between. Slick! But, that isn’t all.
A year before this, Taco delivering drones as well as a Burrito bomber drones were also seen. All of them had gone viral. Yet, we still have a long way to go to see these delivery systems working legally.

Mosquito killers: A North Florida-based company that supplies drones for military missions, showed a drone that would speed up detection of stagnant water. As a result, helping the authorities cut mosquito breeding grounds in Florida.

Hover Cameras: Golf channel tested a new way of filming golf tournaments using drones this year. Besides that, we’ve seen drones being used for sports photography and journalism too.

Drone Waiters: To promote a new product, YO! Sushi, a London restaurant started using ‘flying trays’ for bringing burgers to their customers. These flying trays were nothing but drones carrying food trays. Also, it increased their speed ‘exponentially’.

Drone Constructors: This project dates back to the year 2010-11. Two architects, Garamazio and Kohler demonstrated aerial construction using unmanned drones. However, they demonstrated building process for a heavily scaled down version of a building using foam bricks. Nevertheless, it was an achievement in the year 2011, when QuadroCopters were just starting to get popular.

Although we have seen a lot of unusual uses for drones being demonstrated all around the globe (many more creative uses remain to be seen), we are yet to see their practical implementation; especially for projects like the Amazon drone delivery, which require drones to move around in a complicated airspace (in terms aviation rules).

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is actively working on rules for unmanned aerial vehicles. Still we won’t see drones moving around legally and freely, any time before 2015.

Everything else you’d want to know about drones: PopSci