The monthly editor's memo from Editor-in-Chief Susan Sutton.
While listening to the radio recently, I heard a story
about a man who, in 1953, underwent experimental brain surgery in an attempt to
alleviate debilitating seizures.* Surgeons removed portions of his medial
temporal lobes, the regions of his brain that the doctors hypothesized were
responsible for his epilepsy. The good news for H.M., as he's now known, is
that the procedure did dramatically reduce the number and severity of the
seizures-instead of several large and small seizures each day, he experiences
only about one major seizure per year.
However, doctors soon discovered that the procedure
robbed H.M. of the ability to channel short-term memories into long-term
memories. While he can recall his youth and events prior to the surgery, he is
unable to remember anything new. In interviews in the 1990s, he could not
identify what he'd done the day before, or even what he'd had for lunch that
day. Interestingly, while he does not have the ability to store new memories,
he does have a limited capacity to learn. He could associate the correct first
name with the appropriate last name of one of the researchers who had visited
with him repeatedly, though he could not remember who she was.
Now in his 80s, H.M. lives in a nursing home in Connecticut. His unique
case has been intensely studied and has led to a much broader understanding of
the way the human brain processes and stores information in memory.
Though certainly much larger in scale, materials handling
in the ceramic industry is thankfully less complex than memory handling. Not
only do suppliers of materials handling equipment know exactly how each process
works, they've created the systems to be as efficient and easy to use as
possible. For example, a new line of vacuum conveyors has been designed to
convey a wide range of materials safely and cost effectively. In addition, our “Materials
Equipment Roundup″ special department features the latest
materials handling advances-from batching systems and mixers to screeners and
bulk bag unloaders-that are available for ceramic manufacturers.
One area where efficiency and accuracy are of the utmost
importance is the warehouse. With so many products, pallets and orders zooming
around, it's easy for one small mistake to cause big problems. Luckily, as
you'll read in “Zen and the Art of WMS Software,” software for warehouse
management systems is available to help maintain “good flow" and process
orders more effectively.
Speaking of processing, optimizing processes like
calcination, synthesis and milling have resulted in doped cerias with refined
surface areas and particle size distributions. Researchers have discovered that
these tailored materials are better suited for advanced applications like solid
oxide fuel cells and electrochemical oxygen generators (see “Tailor Made”).
I can't stop thinking about H.M., and how the removal of
one piece of vital “equipment" so completely changed his life. His
experience makes me appreciate not only my capacity to remember (which,
admittedly, can be sketchy from time to time), but the memories-good and bad-I
build every day.
*“H.M.’s Brain and the History of Memory” by Brian
Newhouse is archived and available online at www.npr.org