One more thing I wanted to note from ECAR was a fabulous talk by Dr. V.S. Ramachandran about his research in cognitive neurology. He’s worked extensively on “phantom limb” phenomenon, where people who have had limbs amputated continue to feel the missing limb, and is now working on synesthesia, where people get their various senses “mixed up”, like seeing different colors for numbers, or tasting sounds.
The conclusions he is reaching from his research is that the human capacity for understanding and using metaphors may be hard-wired in the brain. This is fascinating work which I certainly can’t do justice to. But fortunately, the BBC has a series of five lectures that Ramachandran gave in 2003, available both in audio (which I recommend if it’s anywhere close to the kind of talk he gave us) or transcripts. I haven’t had a chance to listen to these yet, but I fully intend to.