MOXI REPORT: Nerdy Good Time on a Friday Night

Yes, I’m a big nerd, and my idea of a fun Friday night is a science lecture. With a side order of dissection. Fair warning, there are pictures, so avert your eyes if filet of cow eyeballs isn’t your thing.

My friend Lisa invited me to a member only night at MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation. It was my first visit and pretty much confirmed that the museum is Santa Barbara’s mini version of the Tech Museum in San Jose.

It is full of beautiful interactive exhibits, labs for hands-on learning, and crafty creative space.

We nibbled on veggie spring rolls, bacon wrapped dates, and chicken salad puffs prior to a lecture by Dr. Dante Pieramici. His presentation was called A.I. and The Management of Eye Diseases. He covered basics about what A.I. is (and is not), recent advances, and potential advantages of having A.I. support the diagnosis and treatment of macular degeneration, specifically. He also covered the basics of the eye and evolution of the eyeball.

Because my local SB ophthalmologist is old school, I had forgotten that much of the modern eye exams is all about looking at images of the eye and comparing annual optomap retinal exams to previous images.

Narrow A.I. could be trained to compare an image of a patient retina, to, say, a database of previously labeled “healthy” and “detached” images. The “narrow” comes from the fact that the A.I. would have a slim focus: only identifying pictures that, in comparison to hundreds or thousands of similar images, show the likelihood of a health issue or risk. On this simple comparison task, A.I. has a very high degree of accuracy and is much faster than humans at processing data.

It was fun to hear about the efficiency to be gained, especially once we are all DIYing our eye exams with an attachment to our iPhones. (Might be awhile.)

After the lecture, we had time to play in the museum and wait for our lab time. We visited the Inhabitat exhibit but skipped the line for trying out the VR (Not worth it without the hand-held controls, IMHO).

At another exhibit, we tried to align our eyes in an intimate mirror helmet. Called The Mirrorbox, it was created by artist Megan May Daalder. To get the name and info I contacted MOXI who said:

We’re so glad you enjoyed it! If you want to learn more about it, check out Megan’s TedTalk here.

 

The item looks like a conglomeration of the cone of silence, funhouse mirrors, bizzarre lighting effects, and two conjoined black steampunk dive helmets. Each partner put their head into one side of the contraption and the experience went from total blackness through a number of lighting shifts.

It was disconcerting to see my eyes with Lisa’s hair, or eyes of green and blue together, or her very long black lashes and high cheekbones under my green eyes. It was a few solid minutes of staring into her eyes, but I think we got aligned so quickly – both of us entirely unafraid to immediately make eye contact – that it didn’t take much effort.

At 7:40pm helpers from the California Retina Research Foundation took pictures of us while we dissected the eyeballs left over after last week’s steak dinner. The dissection experience in the Exploration Lab was interesting, in a squishy way. I have a tactile appreciation for my own floater-filled, Vitreous Humor, and my too human lack of a tapetum (the bit that allows animals to see better in the dark, and flashes scary green/blue at night when they look straight at the camera).

A really good time that was a much-needed break from NaNoWriting and a rough week.

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