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Locked in Syndrome and Morse Code
Old 05-25-2012, 10:03 AM   #1
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Locked in Syndrome and Morse Code

Last night we watched the movie The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

Based on the book:

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
On December 8, 1995, Bauby, the editor-in-chief of Elle magazine, suffered a stroke and lapsed into a coma. He awoke 20 days later, mentally aware of his surroundings but physically paralyzed with the exception of some movement in his head and eyes (one of which had to be sewn up due to an irrigation problem). The entire book was written by Bauby blinking his left eyelid, which took ten months (four hours a day). Using partner assisted scanning, a transcriber repeatedly recited a French language frequency-ordered alphabet (E, S, A, R, I, N, T, U, L, etc.), until Bauby blinked to choose the next letter.

Here's what I don't understand: Wouldn't Morse code or something similar have been a much better way of communicating? I'm sure someone thought of that, but I wonder why it was rejected.

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Old 05-25-2012, 11:07 AM   #2
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Or create a 7*7 matrix, and let him blink for each column-row? With the most common letters, symbols, or sounds (th, ch, sh,or whatever) in the lowest numbered rows and columns, just a few selections would get probably 80% hits, and it would never take more than 14. Cell 49 could be 'see chart B' with other rare selections (verbs, nouns, odd symbols).

Or was his vision too bad for a chart?

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Old 05-25-2012, 12:28 PM   #3
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Probably just had to work with the resources he had. Even if we could have done better. I wondered why not morse code also when I watched the movie.
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Old 05-25-2012, 12:53 PM   #4
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1. Unless he already knew Morse Code, there would be a significant learning process. If sight/reading were an issue, it might be tough for him to look at a chart for a translation until he had things memorized.

2. Sending Morse via blinks would be a LOT of eye lid movement. I just sent "the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog" with my left eyelid and that was pretty tiring. Sending morse via blinking would be much more of an effort than blinking once to indicate his choice of a verbally related letter. Not sure if his available eye lid movement was just barely there or robust.

Still, using Morse, once learned, would have enabled him to communicate at probably 20 letters per minute or so (per my experiment above). That is, if he had the agility and endurance to blink that fast and that long. And, after he actually learned the code and didn't have to refer to a look-up chart.

I've mentioned to my wife a number of times that if I were suddenly unable to speak or write that she should get one of my ham radio buddies to see if I could tap a finger, blink, etc., to communicate via code.
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Old 05-25-2012, 12:56 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ERD50 View Post
Or create a 7*7 matrix, and let him blink for each column-row? With the most common letters, symbols, or sounds (th, ch, sh,or whatever) in the lowest numbered rows and columns, just a few selections would get probably 80% hits, and it would never take more than 14. Cell 49 could be 'see chart B' with other rare selections (verbs, nouns, odd symbols).

Or was his vision too bad for a chart?

-ERD50
Exactly. It seemed from the movie that his vision was fine, but your system would work even if he were blind, since memorizing the chart wouldn't be too hard. A 3x3x4 3D matrix would be even faster, and include the digits.

Of course, now computers can track eye movements...
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Old 05-25-2012, 03:48 PM   #6
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I know you guys are really into the details of this.

But it seems as if the almost totally paralyzed author wrote an entire freakin' book by only blinking his eye...

... and you think he could've done a better job?!?
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Old 05-25-2012, 07:00 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Nords View Post
I know you guys are really into the details of this.

But it seems as if the almost totally paralyzed author wrote an entire freakin' book by only blinking his eye...

... and you think he could've done a better job?!?
We're wondering if it could have been easier to do.
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Old 05-25-2012, 08:20 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords View Post
I know you guys are really into the details of this.

But it seems as if the almost totally paralyzed author wrote an entire freakin' book by only blinking his eye...

... and you think he could've done a better job?!?

Engineers?
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Old 05-26-2012, 06:01 AM   #9
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Wow, that was an incredible story. I loved the movie and never even thought about improved communications techniques.
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Old 05-26-2012, 07:08 AM   #10
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60 Minutes had a recent piece about tapping in the brain and taking the signals directly from the brain and transmitting them to the muscle. It has allowed people who have complete spinal cord injury to actually control robot arms by thinking and the next step is to use the same methodology to control your existing arms. Basically bypassing the spinal cord.

So I think the real secret to writing a book when you are paralyzed is to find a really good doctor. Anyway that is my plan, although I haven't worked out the details of communicating my plan to my family.
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Old 05-26-2012, 08:43 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords View Post
I know you guys are really into the details of this.

But it seems as if the almost totally paralyzed author wrote an entire freakin' book by only blinking his eye...

... and you think he could've done a better job?!?
Quote:
Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
We're wondering if it could have been easier to do.
Right T-Al. I don't get the "and you think he could've done a better job?!?" response at all. With that attitude, we'd never have electric start in a car, or A/C or radios, because the first automobile was an amazing achievement, and it didn't have those things. "Hey, this cave is better than sleeping outside in a tree - so no more advancements in housing allowed for all of humanity - this is it!. And so on.

-ERD50
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