TED Conversations

Nicolette Sinensky


This conversation is closed.

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?


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Apr 7 2012: Just read a little of the end of your post.
    That last question is an excellent one. Where an image says a thousand words, if virtuality emphasizes the imaginary then a very important question.

    I would rather take that to a base level, and look at those factors in your real worldview, in your belief systems, where beliefs are often fomenting from images, worldviews directed by the ephemeral. Belief might be understanding, but not necessarily factual. Our Truth, our personal "perspection" as to truth might often be more virtual than we would like to think, especially where so much of our information experience is laced with imagery and allusion..
    • thumb
      Apr 9 2012: Thanks for your comment, Craig.
      You say our personal perception of the world is more virtual than we like to think. Do you think we need to find a common reality that we can all agree on? Also, if we are all experiencing the same "virtual" perspective (since we all have the same modes of interpreting the world), does that agreement define the reality, or must we look past that to find the real truth of the world?

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.