X-Ray Visions

What Your Cat Sees in Your Face
(But Can Not See in Your Testicle)

People see what they want to see, wise men have been saying for ages. The religious-bent, for example, is prone to see proof of their faith on everything. Like, is that baby Jesus on the toilet seat? or is the Virgin Mary I see on this toast?
But science is also working overtime, trying to see what could only be imagined before. Say, what’s my cat actually seeing, when he looks at me? Or, does that ultrasound picture of your testicle show the face of a desperate man?
It’s a weird world out there, folks, and if you can believe your eyes and ears, then it’s only natural that machines we create may confirm what you already were expecting.
Take the research being developed to create a reliable interface to translate what the brain sees into computer programs. A lot of ground has been covered so far.
Not satisfied with using human subjects to tap into the brain’s ability to create mental pictures of the world around, scientists enlisted the unwittingly collaboration of cats.
We’re very sorry, but if we stop at the fact that using animals always involves a certain amount of torture, this post would end right here. We need to tell you what’s been accomplished first, though.

In the late 1990s, University of California at Berkeley researchers tracked the group of cells in the cats’ brains that process signals from their retina, while they were being shown short movies.
Then, using mathematical filters, they used the signals to generate footage of what the cats saw and reconstruct recognizable scenes. Almost like turning the eye into a camera sensor. Of course, it’s way more complicated than that, but that’s the general idea.
When screened side by side with the movies’ excerpts, the footage from the cats-generated signals is almost haunting. One can see clearly the transformation of the face of the actor on the movie clip into a cat-like being.
Now, whether the possible application of such research justifies the coercive use of animals is a way more complicated issue, which usually finds us on the side of the defenseless. It’s a moral choice but devoid of specific judgement against those involved in scientific research.
The fact that we don’t agree on principle, and personally wouldn’t condone anything that would lead to this common practice, however, shouldn’t entitle us, or anyone for that matter, to special powers of rectitude or the liberty to preach on the evils of this world. We’ll leave it at that.
Ultrasound imagery has long extrapolated its original role as a diagnose tool, to be a source of comfort, or of unsettling feelings, for pregnant couples all over.
Until the baby or babies are delivered safe and sound, many a mother to be collected as many pictures as possible of the member of the next billion, as a form of reassurance that her experience is real and even has a beating heart.
Still, the procedure has become standard for gauging the origin of many kinds of pains that hide beneath our skin, often as a stepping stone, before calling in the big guns of a multimillion dollar MRI machine.
According to the International Society of Urology‘s official journal, when an Ontario man complained to his doctor of a severe pain in one of his testicles, neither had any idea the man’s pain actually had a face.
Or so it seemed. The ultrasound picture revealed the face of a man, eyes and mouth wide open, almost like it was really in pain. Which the man, as we said, actually was. It’s way less complicated than that.
Still, his case made to the pages of a medical paper, after it’d already shocked hospital residents and staff alike. As if the face itself “was also experiencing severe epididymo-orchitis,” wrote the authors, referring to the man’s inflammatory condition.
As we said before, at this rate, soon enough we’ll be all watching pictures out of each others’ bodies, as slightly unease the prospect may sound to you. That same uneasiness prevents us to end this post with an excellent coda.
You’ve heard of the Schrödinger’s cat experiment, right? It’s fine, we’ll spare you the grief, since it involves a dead cat, albeit imaginary. But if it were up to their proverbial curiosity, we’re sure we’ll be all inside (and outside) that box, now.

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