Bitten To Death: Book four in the Jaz Parks sequence
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The Wizard, a terrorist thorn in the military's side, has finally revealed a chink in his armour. So my vampire boss, Vayl, and I have been asked to join my brother's special ops team to take him down.
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Free delivery worldwide. Bestselling Series. Harry Potter. Popular Features. Afterward, the riders would report their chronometer readings, then take a stopwatch and go back over the experience in their minds, timing it from start to finish. Eagleman knew how long the fall had taken in real time; now he wanted to know how long it felt. April was too jittery to manage this at first, but then she took a deep breath and tried again. When she opened her eyes, the stopwatch showed just over three and a half seconds—about thirty per cent longer than the actual drop.
One of the seats of emotion and memory in the brain is the amygdala, he explained. When something threatens your life, this area seems to kick into overdrive, recording every last detail of the experience. The more detailed the memory, the longer the moment seems to last. The more familiar the world becomes, the less information your brain writes down, and the more quickly time seems to pass. During the next few years, he plans to study the stories—some two hundred so far—by going back to the authors with a questionnaire.
In one story, a man is thrown off his motorcycle after colliding with a car. The sound has a catchy rhythm, he thinks, and he finds himself composing a little ditty to it in his head. It consisted of a series of simple images flashing on a computer screen. Most of the time, the same picture was repeated again and again: a plain brown shoe.
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But every so often a flower would appear instead. To my mind, the change was a matter of timing as well as of content: the flower would stay onscreen much longer than the shoe. But Eagleman insisted that all the pictures appeared for the same length of time.
The only difference was the degree of attention that I paid to them. The shoe, by its third or fourth appearance, barely made an impression. The flower, more rare, lingered and blossomed, like those childhood summers. Before Francis Crick died, in , he gave Eagleman some advice.
The way real science goes is that you come up with lots of ideas, and most of them will be wrong. Eagleman may have taken the words a little too much to heart. When I was in Houston, he had more than a dozen studies running simultaneously, and spent his time racing from laboratory to lecture hall to MRI machine to brain-surgery ward and back. One of his nine lab members was studying the neurological roots of empathy; another was looking at free will. Eagleman had projects on epilepsy, counterfeiting, decision-making in courts, and timing deficits among brain-damaged veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as four books at various stages of completion.
In early April, Eagleman was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for his work on synesthesia. He pulled up a picture on his computer of what looked like a grub in a fancy fur coat. It was a highly venomous insect, he assured me. He knew this because one of them had crawled up his leg seven years earlier.
In the hospital that night, an emergency-room doctor called him a wimp. So Eagleman, by way of reply, spent the next few years rounding up every known case report of asp-caterpillar envenomation. Then he published his report, extensively footnoted, in the journal Clinical Toxicology. But he has an impressive record of peer-reviewed publications, and even his wackiest projects tend to bear up under scrutiny.
He gets seven hours of sleep a night, he says, but only by working seven days a week, mostly without pause. His last vacation was three years ago, a weekend wedding in Hawaii. Then, last October, he surprised everyone by marrying Sarah Alwin, a twenty-six-year-old doctoral candidate who studies the electrophysiology of vision at the University of Texas in Houston. Eagleman has never lost his childhood tendency to observe himself from a distance, treating his own brain as a research subject. By leaping from topic to topic, he forces his brain to give each problem far more attention than familiarity would allow.
Early this winter, I joined Eagleman in London for his most recent project: a study of time perception in drummers.
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Timing studies tend to be performed on groups of random subjects or on patients with brain injuries or disorders. The idea of studying drummers had come from Brian Eno, the composer, record producer, and former member of the band Roxy Music. Each of its forty chapters is a kind of thought experiment, describing a different version of the afterlife. Eagleman establishes a set of initial conditions, then lets the implications unfold logically. In one chapter, the dead are doomed to spend eternity playing bit parts in the dreams of the living.
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In another, they share the hereafter with all possible versions of themselves—from the depressing failures to the irritating successes. Instead, both groups claimed the book for their own.
Atheists like Philip Pullman wrote enthusiastic blurbs, while the editors of an interfaith Web site named it one of the best spiritual books of At a Unitarian church in Massachusetts, members of the congregation took turns reading chapters from the pulpit. Eno and Eagleman had struck up an e-mail correspondence by then, and Eno had suggested that they collaborate on a staged reading of the book. A full-fledged operatic version, with music by Max Richter, is scheduled to be produced by the Royal Opera House, in London, in It was while they were there that Eno told Eagleman the story that inspired the drumming study.
In this case, however, Mullen thought that the click track was slightly off: it was a fraction of a beat behind the rest of the band. It was only later, after the drummer had left, that Eno checked the original track again and realized that Mullen was right: the click was off by six milliseconds. Each line represented the electrical activity at a different point in his brain. The drummers would wear this while taking a set of four tests, Eagleman explained. The tests were like simple video games, designed by his lab to measure different forms of timing: keeping a steady beat, comparing the lengths of two tones, synchronizing a beat to an image, and comparing visual or audible rhythms to one another.
But why not? While Eagleman set up testing areas in two rooms, Eno bustled around the studio tidying up, talking to his cats, and brewing tea. The stable had been converted into an airy, skylit space with a circular staircase that led to the former hayloft, now filled with computer workstations. Eno was clean-shaven and dressed all in black.
He had a round, impish face and rectangular glasses with a pixellated pattern punched along the temples. Then suddenly everybody decided to come, and to bring their friends. So we may have a flood of drummers. Or we may have no one at all. The first subject wandered in at around noon—a scruffy, swivel-hipped young redhead named Daniel Maiden-Wood, who played drums for the singer Anna Calvi. By midafternoon, the place was full. Larry Mullen, Jr. Among them were jazz musicians, Afro-Cuban percussionists, and the drummer for Razorlight, a British band with a pair of multi-platinum albums.
Biting The Bullet: Book three in the Jaz Parks sequence
When he removed his yarn cap to reveal a large bullet head, Eagleman said it was perfect for the EEG. The friendly rivalry that Eagleman had imagined among players never quite materialized. He might have had better luck with a roomful of lead singers. Instead, they told drummer jokes. The knocking gets faster and faster. Had we heard about the drummer who tried to commit suicide? He threw himself behind a train. Eno had been recording drum parts most of his life, but he claimed to be rhythmically challenged.