From Make Magazine, volume 6:
The Term â€śbody modificationâ€ť brings to mind piercing and tattooing for cosmetic reasons. But body mods can also be assistive, by changing a personâ€™s experience of their own body or even giving them a new ability. How would you like to be able to sense an electric field at a distance? Talk to Steve Haworth of Phoenix (stevehaworth.com). He has experimented on human volunteers by making a small incision in the fingertip and inserting a small neodyme magnet coating in gold, then silicone. The magnet it nestled into a bed of nerves between the epidermis and fascia layers of the ring finger, and then the cut is neatly sutured up. For most magnetic implants, Haworth can have the job done in less than ten minutes.
Over the next few weeks, the finger heals, and the nerves begin to interpret electromagnetism and movement in the magnet. Some things, like other magnets, can even cause the magnet to spin freely up against the nerves. The new sensations pass to the brain, where evolutionâ€™s own favorite primate hack takes over â€“ parts of the brain become more in tune with the new signals from the hand, and the perceptual sensitivity improves. How much sensitivity you experience depends on many factors â€“ the size and placement of the magnets, how many you have, and, probably, how well you train to use them.
Every magnetically modded person tested, from two weeks to several months, could easily pick out a live cord running with 110 volts. Many report being able to sense electrical motors running from distances of a few inches to a few feet, depending on the strength of the motor and the size and healing time of the implant.
Shannon Larratt, of the body modding publication and community BME, reported that walking through a retail security device was like â€śsticking my hand in an ultrasonic cleaner.â€ť Any string inductive wire has a chance of causing a sensation in the magnetic finger.
Wow, how useful would that be to be able to literally "sense" inductive fields? I can see how it might be dangerous in our field, but also that it could very well save lives. Too bad it can't actually sense voltage, just current.
BTW, you probably do NOT want to visit that guy's website. I couldn't find anything about this implant on there, just very disturbing things that go way beyond "body modification" and into the realm of "self mutilation"...
Edit: found some pictures and another article: http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,71087-0.html
The area where the magnet was implanted is all dark in this photo because the tattoo artist who first experimented with it used the wrong kind of silicon, and it degraded after about 2 months. They've apparently fixed it since then, or at least think they have, it's all amateur bioengineering at this point!
People with magnetic implants can't erase hard drives or credit cards. They don't set off airport metal detectors or get stuck to refrigerators. The magnets are small, and once encased in skin, all they do is react next to nerves, conveying the presence of sufficiently strong electromagnetic fields.
At first there was no discerning between the throbbing of the injury and the sense of magnetic fields. Consequently, some early encounters with industrial refrigerators remain mysterious -- was the display case at Citizen Cake really giving off that much EM, or was I just having blood rush to my healing finger? Other sensations were unmistakable from the start. I would circle my finger with a strong magnet and feel the one in my finger spin. In time, bits of my laptop became familiar as tingles and buzzes. Every so often I would pass near something and get an unexpected vibration. Live phone pairs on the sides of houses sometimes startled me.
[This message has been edited by SteveFehr (edited 08-19-2006).]