You simply will not believe what Captain Cyborg aka Kevin Warwick has been up to this week. Even for a publicity obsessive, he has really outdone himself. Perhaps for the first time though, the press are as much to blame - Kev is one thing, but for journalists to buy this bull...
First up: "Bacon, the brain food - A tasty butty can boost children's performance in school, says study" - courtesy of the Daily Mail.
"A bacon sandwich could be the best way to set your child up for a day's studies, it was claimed yesterday." In an almost indentical "study" to the one that garnered Kev press attention last year, he has created an interesting headline from a completely ludicrous experiment and managed to tie it in with his book.
Get this: 50 kids aged between eight to 11 were given a certain breakfast every day for a month. Over this time they were given three "verbal and non-verbal reasoning tests". Ten kids ate bacon sandwiches, ten egg on toast, ten cornflakes, ten toast and orange juice and ten whatever they normally had (the control group :-) ).
Kev gave them a test "involving word association, numerical and shape recognition" at the start, halfway through and at the end of the month and then compared how the scores had changed over that time.
Kids that had the toast and orange juice improved the most - then the bacon, then cereal, then eggs. Obviously this means "the protein in something like bacon combined with vitamins in fruit juice provides good mental stimulation for children". "We believe this is the first scientific test on which breakfast foods boost intelligence," said Kev, among many other things.
Where do you begin?
It is almost impossible to know where to begin with this. Even by Kevin's standards the "experiment" is so poor as to be worse than worthless. There are so many ways in which these results are skewed that it is difficult to get them out one at a time. This is the equivalent of stabbing people with different knives and asking which was the most painful.
But there's more: here he is again in the Daily Telegraph. Except this time he's become an expert in psychology and physiology. It's a feature about Marc Salem, who just happens to be a mind-reader doing some shows in London at the moment.
The thing is that Marc isn't like other mind-readers who use complex code, behaviour and language to give the impression of mind-reading. No, Marc is the real deal. He also has an interesting commercial sideline training people with money in the same powers.
The article discusses how he does it and then lo! here is "Professor Kevin Warwick, author of QI: The Quest for Intelligence". Kevin doesn't dismiss Marc as a charlatan, not at all. "It is quite possible that he could pick up radio waves," says recent expert in electromagnetic waves Kevin. "If you test identical twins when they are far apart, they come up with similar answers; if you put them in neighbouring rooms, their answers are different. It's as if their thoughts interfere with one another."
What! What the hell does that mean? That's total gibberish. And since when has Kev done any experiments with identical twins?
And then of course we have to add in a recent feature in the Guardian which started as a fairly interesting piece about artificial intelligence, using Spielberg's AI movie as a tag.
You're getting to the end and then suddenly here's Kev saying that machines have their own form of consciousness - that's why we can't see it or measure it or understand it. In fact, if you didn't know better, you'd think that it wasn't doing anything at all when it was supposed to be running down a road but Kevin can see beyond that.
"Professor Warwick is perhaps best known for becoming the first cyborg, when he had an implant that allowed his office to react to his presence. Next month, he plans to have an implant attached to nervous fibres in a complex operation at Stoke Mandeville hospital."
Uh-huh. But get this - he's gone back to the bat-hearing thing: "'Part of the aim is to give me some of the extra-sonic properties of a bat,' he grins, 'to see if I can sense my surroundings with my eyes shut.'"
Hang on - here comes the questioning journalist: "Not everyone is prepared to take the same risks with their health as Professor Warwick and there are some who see these experiments as opportunistic stunts. But such is the nature of academia; outwardly everyone is very polite about one another, but behind closed doors the gloves come off. Everyone has a vested interest in promoting their own particular line of AI inquiry because their research funding depends on their credibility."
Do me a favour! Rather than write off criticism of Warwick as academic jealousy, how about you ask how precisely a chip inserted into an ARM is supposed to enhance the hearing in your EAR to the levels of a bat? Just... how... is... that.. supposed... to... work? Huh? ®