Tripping Balls: Flavorwire Hacks Brains So You Don’t Have To


Working for a publication called “Flavorpill,” we already have to answer too many confused questions about whether our company has anything to do with drugs. It doesn’t, but this post probably won’t help our case.

Earlier this week, the Boston Globe posted a guide to “hacking your brain.” “Wouldn’t it be fun to hallucinate on your lunch break?” The story asked. Well, duh. The Internet’s been a-flutter since, but only two people were fearless enough to go all Mr. Wizard for the good of the cash-strapped, drug-hungry, desk-jockey workforce. Click through for a synopsis of the four hallucinatory experiments we performed, and here to see a slideshow of our (varied) results.

First up was the Ganzfeld Procedure. This involves taping a halved ping-pong ball over your (still-open) eyes and listening to static on a radio until you see flying horses and hear your dead grandmother. Really. Flavorpill HQ just so happened to have a ping-pong ball (from pre-Wii days, no doubt), so we got down to business. And you know what? It sort-of worked! We didn’t have the radio volume up loud enough for Andy to tune out the meeting in the conference room, but Leah reported hearing keening and chanting and children laughing in the static, and saw swirling designs and geometrics that she might compare to the very early stages of tripping on mushrooms — if she had ever consumed that illegal drug.

The second trick we tried was “The Pinocchio Illusion.” For this, you need a blindfold and a buddy who won’t weird out when you tell HIM you want to sit behind him and rub his nose. After rubbing both your own nose and that of the person in front of you, you’re supposed to feel like your nose is really long. Eh. This one worked, and provided some comedic relief to onlooking coworkers, but as Andy said, ultimately it was just a “cheesy, boring, tactile illusion.” And yeah: kinda weird.

We wanted the harder shit, so we went outside to experience the Purkinje Lights. Yes, some dude named the spots you see after staring at the sun for too long after himself. (The egomaniac is also responsible for the discovery of Purkinje cells, Purkinje fibres, and the Purkinje shift — but we think his most lasting scientific contribution was his experimentation and documentation of the effects of opium, camphor, and deadly nightshade on humans.) So, you’re supposed to close your eyes, look up at the sun, and wave your hand back and forth in front of your face till you see colored spots. The trouble with this experiment is that it was freezing outside, and also that the sun wasn’t out. Fail.

Hoping for a big finish, we moved on to the “Rubber Hand Illusion.” This one is another mind/body trick, and we were afraid that sans rubber hand (really, Boston Globe? Really?), we’d not get the desired freak-out effect. Luckily, by stuffing a glove, we approximated said fake hand. Here, you rest your hand on your knee under a table, positioning the fake hand roughly above it, on the table. Your lab partner sits across from you and strokes both your hand and the fake in identical places and manners. Eventually, you start to think “hey, that fake hand could be my hand!” and then, when you least expect it, your buddy whacks the fake with a hammer and your nervous system totally freaks, thinking he just slammed your real hand. This was a good one, and it definitely worked, but it really wasn’t a hallucination. At all.

So, while Flavorpill and Flavorwire would never, ever endorse drug use, if that’s your bag, judging from these experiments, you’re probably still better off just paying for your psychedelics. Yes, even “in this economy.” Some corners just can’t be cut.