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Spikes on a Plane Revisited

In early March, Backyard Brains made history by doing the first neural recordings on a commercial airline flight. As professional scientists however, we know that experiments should be repeated before conclusions are made. On a flight from Chicago to Kansas City in late April, we again performed the experiment. Before that though, during our layover in Chicago, Greg was debugging some of our equipment at one of the laptop kiosks. I lost a bit of faith in the Homeland Security Department that day, as when we were actively soldering electronic components together at the airport, not one person even asked us what we were doing. Maybe it’s racial profiling, who knows.

Once we got on our plane to Kansas City and reached cruising altitude, we realized we needed to know what the pressure inside the cabin was, so we requested the steward to ask the captain. Here is a link to an audio recording of our inquiry:

[audio:|titles=Spikes On A Plane Altitude Request]

We determined cabin pressure was at 7250 Aviator Units.

Unfortunately, the cockroach leg had begun to dry out, and the neural activity was very noisy. We were skeptical if it was real or not.

Doesn’t look like it. I (Tim) decided to try again on my return flight from Kansas City to Chicago, but I became a victim of my own brazenness. I literally walked through the security with the cockroaches in a clearly visible container in an open cardboard box (rather than in a small box in a shirt pocket, as in the past), and this time they didn’t let me go through. After speaking with the customer liaisons at United Airlines for half an hour, they decided it was up to the pilot captain to make the final call whether to let the cockroaches on board or not. I made an imprassioned plea to the captain (offering an honorary Ph.D. in exchange for honorary wings). He was good-spirited about it, and said “in the name of science education,” he would let me keep my cockroaches, but he made me promise to not do “spikes on a plane” on his airship (he was worried about escaped cockroaches getting into the wiring on the plane, which evidently has happened before). The liaisons double taped up the container just to be sure…

In the future, we’ll have to put the leg on the SpikerBox BEFORE we get into the airport. But we thank the good folks at United and Delta airlines for being such good sports about the whole thing.


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