Apr. 25, 2007

Pandora's Box

Three stories of consequences that follow from human beings doing what we do best: poking our noses everywhere, fixing things that may or may not be broken, and opening our big mouths. A hot dog stand in Chicago unleashes dark forces in the human soul; and scientists try, unsuccessfully, to create perfect pigs.

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A brain scientist named Todd Sacktor had a fairly controversial theory about how the brain stored memories. He thought it was largely due to one chemical in the brain, an enzyme, with special properties. He teamed up with another scientist, Andre Fenton, to test the theory. They shocked a rat whenever it walked into a certain part of its cage, until eventually the rat remembered not to go into that spot. Then they injected the rat with a substance that blocked Todd's chemical from doing its job in the brain, and boom! The rats completely forgot about the danger spot. Todd and Andre were thrilled and published their findings in Science Magazine, under the daunting title "Storage of Spatial Information by the Maintenance Mechanism of LTP." But then, regular people started contacting them, people who were suffering and in pain, asking Andre and Todd to erase all their memories, too, just like in the rats.