I thought of a fun experiment tonight but decided not to go through with it. It would most likely be a complete dud and a waste of 140 characters or fewer, but it also had the potential to have unintended bad consequences.

I thought it would be fun to tweet something like this:

Did you feel it? Tag your tweet with #bayareaquake030209 and include your coordinates. Some back/forth, no damage at 37.428746,-122.170672

I might have also asked a few friends to play along to get things going. Then I would sit back and see if, by the power of suggestion, others “feel” a quake. And since I would have location data, it would be interesting to see where the “epicenter” ended up.

I figured an earthquake would be good because its lack of noise. “Did you hear it?” or “Did you smell it” questions had a might higher potential for legitimate non-suggested “Yes” answers. I also thought it would be safe. An earthquake generally lasts for less than a minute and then is over, so if someone read my tweet and wasn’t injured, they would know that they did not need to worry about it.

But you just never know. I’m not a psychologist, and even officially sanctioned experiments can get out of control, as anyone who has taken Psych 101 has already learned. So, I decided to just share the idea in a blog entry.

Speaking of experiments going bad, a couple of weeks ago I turned on the TV and found that Howie Do It was on. I think it’s NBC’s way of punishing people for staying at home and watching TV on a Friday night. Anyway, in one segment of the hidden-camera show, they convince someone that he’s a contestant on a crazy Japanese game show. As part of the game’s rules, he needs to shock his teammate. The first few shocks appear temporarily painful, and the last one “kills” the teammate, who is really just acting. I really can’t believe that none of the producers, writers, or legal staff stopped this from happening, as it so closely mirrors an infamous experiment from the 1960s in which participants believed they were shocking (and possibly killing) another person. Read about the “Milgram experiment” if you want to learn more.

Also related is a show on ABC called What Would You Do? which is actually quite interesting once you get over the absence of Marc Summers. What I like about this show is that (I hope) people who watch it are more likely to take action in situations where they might have otherwise turned a blind eye, even if they are only doing something with the hope that they are being taped and will appear heroic on national television.

Ok, back to my personal study on sleep deprivation.

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