IAmA 24yo electrical engineer with magnets implanted in my fingertips. AMA.
I was recently commenting on a post in /r/WTF, and made mention of my neodymium magnetic implants. The comment garnered a substantial amount of attention, and I had a bunch of people telling me to do an AMA on the subject. Well, OP delivers.
Me and two of my friends (who may share their experiences in a bit) had parylene coated neodymium magnets implanted into our fingertips in October of last year. We are in no way the first to do this, but you all seem interested in knowing more about the procedure, and more specifically, why the hell we would want to do something like this.
My implants have allowed me the ability to "see" magnetic fields. Any device that has alternating current flowing through an inductive load throws off substantial amounts of magnetic energy. I can feel the shape, intensity, and frequency of this field as the magnets in my fingers shake in response.
They have changed my life, and I think they are freaking awesome. So please; AMA.
Why did I have it done: This is about the best reason.
EDIT: Sorry all, I'm going to have to call it quits for the night. My ass is falling asleep and my hands are on fire. I hope I answered enough questions. Thanks for all the interest! I might post up some more pictures tonight if I can finish enough of my grad project to take a break.
Alright, I'm going to try to sum up some FREQUENTLY asked questions.
- What if you need an MRI?
I am concerned about this. I don't want people to think that I'm blowing it off. I do understand the awe inspiring magnetic field that a magnetic resonance imager produces. I do understand that there is a possibility that it could cause harm. From what I understand, and from some VERY rough calculations, the likelihood that it would actually RIP my implants from my fingertips are slim. I am far more concerned that it would demagnetize my implants. Also, I do intend on making sure that any technician that would me giving me an MRI knows about the implants, because I guarantee that he is going to understand what could happen far better than I would.
Now, there ARE people that have these implants that have had to have an MRI and have reported that, although it was uncomfortable, it did not cause any damage. The implants are small enough that it shouldn't be much of an issue at all.
- How about other strong magnets?
Well, I've played with some seriously strong magnets and it wasn't an issue. I did get near a 300lb lift magnet and that was a little uncomfortable, but it wasn't bad. My concern is that if a magnet stays on the skin for too long, it will cut off the blood flow and the implant will reject. So I generally don't get too close to a super strong magnet. I've been near some HUGE magnetic fields like monstrous permanent magnet motors and big welders, and that was just fun. It feels crazy.
- Won't you break _______?
Probably not. My implants only have a weak magnetic field (~600uT), which is not enough to harm anything. I can't break a hard drive. I can't erase debit cards. I don't hurt my laptop. LCD screens aren't really affected by magnets. As far as things I might be working with in my profession: really the only thing in the ECE world that would be affected by magnetic fields this small is in MEMS design. This is because the systems you are designing are so small and fragile... I hate MEMS. I work in power electronics and the components that I work with can take a hell of a beating.
- How painful was it?
Quite. There was a rather sizable incision made into my fingertip, and the magnet was forcibly inserted into a layer of fat below my skin. It didn't feel good. The first week of healing sucked. After that, things were smooth sailing.
- Won't they reject?
There is always the possibility. My implants are coated in Parylene, which is biologically neutral and rust proof. It's the same stuff that they coat pacemakers with. I really hope it doesn't happen, but there is a possibility of rejection with any body modification.
- Can I do this without the implant?
Absolutely! You won't have the same level of sensitivity that I do, but I've heard of people glazing small neodymium magnets to their fingernails. That would be a good "test drive" before you consider an implant.
- What does it feel like?
Well, they are small. The implants are thin discs ~2mm0.5mm. I have them in my ring finger and thumb on my left hand. The sensation I get near a magnetic field changes from field to field. AC fields cause the magnets to shake in my fingertips. This causes a similar sensation to bumping your elbow and your fingers going numb. Though, this changes in fields of different frequency or intensity. DC and permanent magnet fields just feel like it's tugging on my finger.*
- What about playing the guitar?
I'm not boss enough to be able to play any instrument. Sorry, I can't answer this one
- Are they removable?
Yeah... It'd just take a scalpel and some ice. I'd rather not have it come to that though
- Do you regret getting them?
Not even the slightest bit.
Alright, I REALLY need to get off of here and work on my grad project. I need to finish a board layout. Thanks for the questions!
UPDATE 2 Holy crap, I did not expect this to receive nearly this much attention. I just got a mention in PopSci! I really appreciate it. I didn't think people would find this quite so fascinating.
I'm sorry, but I'm probably not going to be able to answer many more questions. This AMA blew up more than I ever thought it would, and I'm all sorts of behind schedule on my projects now.
I want to give one last shout out to my local hackerspace, LVL1. This awesome crew of people are who gave me the last push to have the procedure done. I highly suggest that if you think stuff like this is cool, you go and pay your local hackerspace a visit. Getting involved in such a community is probably one of the best things I've ever done.
UPDATE 3 I'm not sure if anyone is still checking up on this. I keep getting messages every once in a while about this post so I suppose that is the case.
This last Friday I received a 1.5 Tesla MRI for my brain parts. My magnets did NOT rip out of my hands, they did NOT warm up, and they did NOT demagnetize. I only felt mild discomfort when they reoriented themselves with the MRI's field when I first entered the machine. So, I think that should put everyone's concerns to bed about that.
So, 3 years later, the implants are still doing well and I haven't died from getting them torn out of my fingers by a giant magnet.