Chianca: An impressive out-of-body of work

Peter Chianca

Here’s the thing about scientists: While most of us can only imagine advancements that would better humanity — like, say, a TV remote that would come when you called it — scientists actually find a way to make those advancements a reality. They do this because they want to make the world a better place, and also because they’ve got a lot of grant money.

Take this latest endeavor, for example. Apparently, scientists in Switzerland and Sweden have managed to induce out-of-body experiences in the laboratory. And you know what that means: Soon we may be able to have out-of-body experiences whenever we want them, instead of just sitting around hoping they might happen — say, when a certain co-worker corners you in the break room.

Certain co-worker: “Hey, nice coffee mug! You know, that reminds me of eight particular battles in the Civil War. First off …”

You: “Gee, look at my body down there, listening to Bob … It’s great having this out-of-body experience; otherwise I’d have to throw my mug at his forehead.”

So how did scientists manage to create an artificial out-of-body experience? It’s complicated, but basically it seems to involve creating a hologram of a test subject, and then positioning the hologram in such a way that, when scientists touch it, the test subject feels the sensation himself. When I first heard about this, I couldn’t help but think: They can make holograms now? Nobody tells me anything.

That was in Switzerland, and in Sweden they took things a step further (as they’re wont to do in Sweden) by attacking the holograms with a hammer, causing the subjects to cower in fear even though they knew they weren’t in any real danger. Then the scientists probably had a big laugh over it down at the local scientists’ bar, right before they made fun of the waitress for not recognizing Niels Bohr’s model of atomic and molecular structure, prompting her trucker boyfriend to give them all wedgies on the way back to their Volvos.

Hammers or no hammers, though, I’m thinking I’d like to get in on the whole out-of-body (OOB) bandwagon. For one thing, the more time my body and I spend together, the more I think at least a trial separation would do us both a world of good. I’m thinking that once divided from my corporeal self, I’d find all its annoying little habits much easier to take — you know, all the bloating, and those odd noises. Plus, better gas mileage.

Not that floating above yourself wouldn’t have its disadvantages — for one thing, you’d probably wind up seeing your body from all sorts of unpleasant angles, which would kind of defeat the purpose. (“Sweet heaven, I’m going bald!!” etc.)

Still, if you have any doubts as to whether this endeavor is worth attacking Swedish people with virtual hammers, just listen to the BBC, which reports that the new findings can have all sorts of “practical applications.” For instance, the out-of-body technology might help “take video games to the next level of virtuality, so the players feel as if they are actually inside the game.” See? Now if only they’d come up with something that could keep them from coming back out once they got in there.

So personally, with the stakes being that high, I’m willing to let scientists prod my hologram as much as they want. Anything to create better video games, and also to separate me from my earthbound self and allow me to float freely in a serene, detached Zen-like state.

I’m figuring from up there I’ll have a much better shot of finding the remote.

Peter Chianca is a CNC managing editor and the brains behind “The At Large Blog” ( and “The Shorelines Blog” ( To receive At Large by e-mail, write to, with the subject line “SUBSCRIBE.”