Open Source Bio-Amplifier

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'The Backyard Brains have recently launched a product for domestic use, called “SpikerBox” defined as “an open source low-cost bio-amplifier to increase public participation in the neurosciences” [vii]. The object is a circuit that uses an electric voltage between two appropriate points (eg. details of a muscle) to make something playable or viewable on an ordinary PC or Smartphone as a normal mp3 file. Of course, this process can be reversed: it is possible to convert an audio input into a nervous stimulus. According to the creators, the product is designed especially for students and “geeks” of all ages and has introduced to date some 18,000 people to the “pleasure of listening to the pulse”.

We are also provided with a support package of tools and services, in addition to the traditional tools and know-how, including (at a cost of about $ 300) live demonstrations for science or biology classes in primary or secondary schools. In this way, it is possible to make household experiments that can be as fascinating as disturbing: a mixture of a chemistry class and a horror museum. It is perhaps difficult to explain it rationally because, compared to many other cases of mistreatment of animals that regularly come to record, these experiments seem harmless. Yet, they caused some discomfort, at least to myself. The Backyard Brains – with its approach a bit naive and, perhaps, led by a certain degree of essentialism (see balance sheet data published online, and a statement that “we can cut the leg of the cockroach, it will grow back again”) – is, at the end, only a small raft in the ocean." (

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