Ferrets in the Matrix

In what is clearly a naked attempt to win an Ignobel, Michael Weliky at Rochester has got ferrets to watch the Matrix on DVD, while they had wires coming out the back of their head so he could watch what they were thinking. In grown-up ferrets, he discovered patterns of neural activity which correlated significantly with the images on the screen, whilst baby ferrets were more confused. Moreover, the adults kept on thinking about the movie after it had finished.

ìThe basic findings are exciting enough, but you canít help but speculate on what they might mean in a deeper context,î says Weliky. ìItís one thing to say a ferretís understanding of reality is being reproduced inside his brain, but thereís nothing to say that our understanding of the world is accurate. In a way, our neural structure imposes a certain structure on the outside world, and all we know is that at least one other mammalian brain seems to impose the same structure. Either that or The Matrix freaked out the ferrets the way it did everyone else.î

I’d have loved to have read the grant proposal.


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