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Cambridge University Science Magazine
I’m quite concerned that the government can read my thoughts – I’m pretty sure that streetlights contain brain scanners and they’re checking up on me. Do you think it’s possible?

Paranoid Pete


Absolutely! Why, just the other day I was asked in the street if I wanted to buy a Big Issue, and it turns out that I did! Of course, what neuroscientists have published is well behind their true capabilities, but some work out of UCL gives us a glimpse. Having watched three film clips, volunteers were placed in a scanner and asked to recall each clip. The researchers could identify which clip was on the volunteer’s minds by their patterns of brain activity. Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg. The only sure-fire way to prevent them reading your mind is to wear a good covering of tin foil. Just as you can’t take metal into an MRI machine, so the layer prevents the mind beams getting into your skull. For hints and tips, watch X-Men 3 or Signs.

Dr I.M. Derisive

I get terrible migraines. What are you boffins going to do about it? I’m in pain here!

Irritable Iris


Firstly, there’s always the surgery route. Ask your GP about full cerebectomies. Secondly, perhaps try painkillers. Apparently you can just keep on taking them until you numb up. Lastly, your final recourse may be some single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (sTMS). Unlike new-age hippy nonsense, this isn’t just about holding some magnetic rocks to your face and hoping. No, this is Science. And, like all good science, it looks a bit like Star Trek. The handy little box is applied to the outside of the head and magnetic pulses are delivered through the skull to produce a good brain scrambling, which is clearly what’s required. Safety tests are still underway, but initial results are promising. However, you’re only allowed to use them if you’re wearing a full lycra bodysuit and muttering to someone called Jim about you being a doctor, not a nuclear physicist.

Dr I.M. Derisive

My housemate is a real pain – he’s always stealing my food! And when it comes to sharing his with me, no chance! Is he an evolutionary throwback?

Hungry Harry


He sounds thoroughly annoying to live with! From the sounds of things, we might indeed be looking at an early prehistoric character here. Food sharing is well known amongst pack animals, and two apes will generally share food when in the same cage. A recent experiment using bonobo apes from the Democratic Republic of Congo has shown something even more remarkable. One bonobo was let into a cage containing food, then when given the option of allowing another bonobo into the same cage via a pegged door, the hairy chap would voluntarily let in his mate and share the food. The reasons for this altruism aren’t fully understood (bit tricky to interview), but may be based on expected future favours. Your housemate is clearly well behind the primate curve here – better call round the zookeeper!

Dr I.M. Derisive