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Nicolette Sinensky

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How does virtuality translate into reality?

This week in my bioelectricity class, we spoke about electrical stimulation of nerves. One method of stimulation is to place a electrode directly on the surface of a nerve. One of the considerations of this method, however, is that the anode (positively charged side) and cathode (negatively charged side) of the electrode each cause a redistribution of charge around the electrode. Consequently, the anode induces a complementary "virtual cathode" and the cathode creates a complementary "virtual anode." These components aren't actually there, but we can observe a similar redistribution of charge that implies that something unseen is going on. Despite the fact that these components are not physically present, they have real effects on the functionality of both the electrode and the nerve. The virtual cathode and anode can cause a very real, measurable voltage change in the nerve, and can effectively block a nerve signal, which is dependent on the voltage.

In what other ways can intangible entities have physical manifestations? In this case, the unintended effect has a negative consequence, but can we find useful applications of such a circumstance?

Also, if these imaginary aspects can effect reality, what does that say about our definition of what is real and what isn't?

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    Apr 5 2012: Nominalism is a philosophy stating that only that which is detectable with the five senses is real. Then there is Noumenal philosophy which says some real things can be known by thought alone with no investigative tasting, touching, hearing, seeing or smelling. Do not confuse imaginary- which implies non-existence- with noumenal. Physical effects of intangible causes are a part of daily life, wind, energy, sound waves, non-visible light, etc.
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      Apr 5 2012: Thanks. That distinction is important to remember while discussing such a subject. But in this case, I was comparing a real electric field originating from an electrode to an "imaginary" one, even though electric fields would be something we would consider noumenal in the first place.
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        Apr 5 2012: I hear you, but I still think "imaginary" means non-existent. That must be a very interesting class project. Thanks for sharing.
      • Apr 7 2012: by the way, i guess what u called "imaginary" electrode means the relative difference of charge that been created. i mean u know, nerve is a natural biochemical electrical wire in our body. so, it just like any other wire out there, that if u cut them and put a battery to them, one gonna be cathode and another's going to be anode. same stuff. and the explaination about perception i've written in several comments below.
    • Apr 7 2012: Isn't your definition of Noumenal contradictory? Scientists don't just point a finger into the air and assume that systems operate under some arbitrary form of mechanics. They investigate through testing and this testing always comes back to exploring through the senses. When a biologist is exploring the inner workings of a cell via an electron microscope, they use their eyes to see what's going on. When Faraday began formulating equations of electro-motive force, he began by using his senses and observing the effects of current on conductive materials.
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        Apr 8 2012: noumenon (ˈnuːmɪnən, ˈnaʊ-)
        — n , pl -na
        1. Compare phenomenon See also thing-in-itself (in the philosophy of Kant) a thing as it is in itself, not perceived or interpreted, incapable of being known, but only inferred from the nature of experience
        2. the object of a purely intellectual intuition

        [C18: via German from Greek: thing being thought of, from noein to think, perceive; related to nous mind]
        Mr. Fenley, this is complex enough for it to be contradictory, as you suggest, without me noticing. Judge for yourself sir. Thanks.
    • Apr 7 2012: And well, u know what, philosophy is interesting, but as Stephen Hawking said, "Philosophy is dead". now it's the time we explain stuff by science. There's gonna be explanation for stuffs scientifically though we are not reaching there yet and i believe the science of perception is next on the line. We're going to understand a lot about brain and perception in years to come.
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        Apr 8 2012: Mr. Hawking made that pompous proclamation just before suffering a catastrophic loss of all ability to communicate. Hmmm.

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