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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Re: The Metal in my Finger.

So I've been needing to do this post for a while now, but I've been as lazy as I usually am. I suppose I'll start at the beginning.

A while back, 2004 I think, a body modification artist named Shannon Larratt filed a report with the Internets detailing the totally awesome new thing his friends Steve Harworth and Jesse Jarrel figured out how to do. After a period of healing, a tiny, but powerful magnet implanted near the sensitive nerves beneath the skin of a finger provides an entirely new sensation; the ability to feel magnetic fields. Naturally, the transhumanist and body-mod communities went crazy over this new thing. But thanks to the restraint of the artists, only a dozen or so people got the experimental new implant.

A few months later, things started to go bad. The silicone coating used to protect the Neodymium magnets from the body (and vice-versa) breached. Though various factors were involved, the general consensus is that the coating was too thin and often applied unevenly; thus the first experiment in the field was brought to a close. Although I didn't hear about it until recently, it turns out one of those original subjects had their magnet coated in titanium rather than silicone. His magnet is doing just fine.

Anyways; I relayed this story to a friend of mine, Nathan Roseborough, sometime during 2007. He was immediately facinated by the idea. His blog, http://feelingwaves.blogspot.com details the following events in more detail. In short: we did our research, discovered another protective coating material, contracted the manufacture of some new implants, and then dove right in.

In April, 2008, Nate got his first magnet implanted. This first attempt didn't turn out so well, as the healing entry wound pushed the magnet out. The second try happened in May, and was accompanied with a small stitch to heal the wound closed. After a few months of watching to see if he developed any complications, I decided it was time for my own.

In June, Nate and I selected a sterile magnet from the small collection and went to see Kieran, the Piercer at 713Tattoos on Westheimer. Kieran is the same person who installed Nate's magnet, and he has been getting better with each implantation. I'll leave out the gory details, but the process hurt less than I thought it would; stitch included.

I got my first bit of sensation the very next day when was going to warm up some water for a salt bath to help heal the wound. As the microwave clicked on there was a small but intense buzzing feeling in my finger, noticable over the slight throbbing. It really is impossible to describe the sensation as I moved my hand around the microwave to feel the subtle gradations of the field generated by the magnetron and transformer inside.

It's been about two months; and while sensation hasn't improved too much, there are always new things that surprize me. Sometimes while using my laptop, I'll find my hand wandering over the keyboard to explore the little clicks and buzzes coming from inside the device. Power supplies all taste a little different, but the 60Hz flux is nearly as familiar as my own hand.

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