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.

  • Why?

Because science.

  • 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.

Comments: 3422 • Responses: 54  • Date: 

Maln1836 karma

Have you ever reached your hand up to a girl and said, "Hey girl, I'm attracted to you."?

elgevillawngnome1711 karma

...damn that's good.

Shmag1633 karma

Can you play with a Wooly Willie with your fingers?

elgevillawngnome135 karma

Haven't tried. I need to go find one.

lawnofthemonth1446 karma

How do they work?

elgevillawngnome1116 karma

The magnets move with any moving magnetic field. So if I get close enough to a strong magnetic field, they start to vibrate in my fingertips. I can feel those vibrations. It is a similar feeling to when your fingers tingle after you hit your elbow.

bunglejerry1081 karma

I think this was a joke.

elgevillawngnome1724 karma

Fucking Miracles.

Frajer586 karma

When you pick up metal objects what happens?

elgevillawngnome911 karma

I can't pick up ferrous objects much bigger than a staple. Other magnets on the other hand... man that's fun. Other rare-earth magnets basically just feel like they are super glued to your fingertips. It's dangerous to keep them on for long, because they pinch the blood flow to the area and can cause the skin to die, leading to the rejection of your beloved implant.

Penroze693 karma

Uh.. this actually sounds like a major impediment to life. You sound like you could easily damage (if you haven't already) the tips of your fingers.

If you accidentally put your hand on a large flat ferrous surface (like say a refrigerator), aren't you going to cause some trauma to your fingers when you try to move your hand?

elgevillawngnome765 karma

No, they're not strong enough at all to harm the skin of my fingers when in contact with a ferrous surface. Big magnets on the other hand...

I haven't had any troubles in my travels for the last few months. I'm quite concerned about an MRI though.

silverwyrm258 karma

I believe Frajer was inquiring what would happen if you normally, with your left hand, picked up a metal Object.

OP I think assumed Frajer was inquiring what would happen if OP used the magnets to pick up objects.

I'm guessing when OP picks up metal objects nothing really abnormal happens, except maybe some pressure in those fingertips.

elgevillawngnome191 karma

That's pretty much accurate.

helvete1337543 karma

Do you now feel like Magneto from X-Men?

elgevillawngnome781 karma

I am constantly being called magneto, and that is fucking boss.

Unfortunately, they aren't strong enough to be able to crush cars or pull the iron content of your blood out.

Dumplation950 karma

they aren't strong enough.... Yet.

elgevillawngnome887 karma


orochiddon467 karma

Does this affect masturbation in any way?

elgevillawngnome532 karma

Not in the least ;)

Qubeye788 karma

Have you considered getting an eleventh implant so it DOES affect it?

elgevillawngnome1042 karma

Awwwwwwww yeaaaaaaa.

No. I don't want anyone cutting into my junk.

TheMeiguoren378 karma

Thanks so much for doing this IAMA, I've wanted to do this for a long time, and I think I might up and do it when I move back to LA in the fall. A couple questions that I would love it if you answered:

  • I see that you got them done for $120 each in NYC. How did you find the guy to do it, and did he supply the magnets or did you have to?

  • Do you have them in the pads of your fingers or to the side? One of my concerns would be not being able to hang from ledges or rock climb if I got them in the pads of my fingers due to irritation or them breaking. Do you notice them when you have a lot of weight on your fingers?

  • I know that in the past there were concerns about the magnet manufacturing process leaving thin spots on the coating that would wear through. Have those been addressed/could you tell me more about the improvements since the first experiments with implanted magnets?

  • What were the main resources you used for research? I'd love to learn more.

  • On a scale of 1 to sex in space, how fucking awesome is it having magnets in your fingers?

elgevillawngnome733 karma

-I had them done in Louisville, KY. by a visiting body art modification artist from NYC. He supplied the magnets.

-They are kind of in between. Too much pressure is a slight bit uncomfortable.

-I honestly don't know if that process has been improved. I wanted them so badly that I didn't really care. I'm worth taking the risks for something like this.

-I just googled the hell out of it. Tons of blogs have covered the different coatings and processes.

-I'd place it at a solid 15' Tesla coil hooked up to an electric guitar played by a bear.

joshrulzz357 karma

Do you have trouble with capacitive-touch displays?

elgevillawngnome373 karma

I was pretty concerned that I would, but it hasn't been an issue.

neumant339 karma

Uh... how much can I have this done for, and where at?!

elgevillawngnome631 karma

Both of my implants cost me $120. There are a couple of body modification artists that will do this procedure. Brian Decker from NYC is who did mine when he visited a local body art shop. Steve Haworth is also a well known name. They use different magnets that each have their positive and negative (lulz) qualities. It's really something that you should research thoroughly before you commit.

DWells55490 karma

I imagine that they're not licensed to use anesthetics and this hurt immensely?

elgevillawngnome736 karma

Like a sonofabitch. Ice and bourbon helped a good bit though.

BSscience575 karma

Are you serious? You had your fingertips open and magnets implanted without anesthetics?

elgevillawngnome1051 karma

Like a bawz.

neumant107 karma

Haha, yeah. My comment may have made me seem a little more excited than I am, not something I am running to have done immediately but I am kind of interested. What have been some side effects (affects?) you have noticed so far, if any?

elgevillawngnome168 karma

Side effects implies a negative... I really haven't come across any. I'm quite scared to get an MRI though.

neumant68 karma

Have you talked with any medical specialists or anything about the topic? If so, have they warned you of anything that could happen, or did you just do some research for yourself before you had it done?

elgevillawngnome180 karma

No, but I'm aware of the things that could go wrong.

A rejection could lead to a rather serious infection that could eventually cause the loss of a digit or my hand if it gets out of hand. If the coating on the magnet were to get scratched (HIGHLY unlikely), the magnet would start to rust... and that would lead to no good. If I get an MRI, there is a possibility of something unpleasant happening.

Honestly, there is a lot that could go wrong. Thankfully, Brian Decker is an amazing body modification professional that took all the steps necessary to prevent infection, or rejection. Things could still go wrong, but I've had them for seven months and I've had no problems.

Whimsicalbox343 karma

gets out of hand

I see what you did there.

elgevillawngnome140 karma


microfortnight285 karma

Do you have any problems going through airport security? As in, the TSA notices something odd or the metal detector going off? Do you have any problems going through their scanners?

elgevillawngnome255 karma

Shouldn't be an issue, but I haven't been flying in over a year.

vendaval300 karma

I got one a few weeks ago, and flew to Canada a week later. The TSA stopped me both ways over my toothpaste, but nobody noticed my magnet, in either the metal detector or the backscatter x-ray.

edit: while this comment is getting views, here's a link to a scientific paper explaining the entire procedure.

elgevillawngnome199 karma

Fucking hilarious.

z0han277 karma

Okay, I'll ask the obvious, how has your life changed?

elgevillawngnome469 karma

I'm constantly being surprised by the strength of a field. Turning on a blender or plugging in a laptop power supply can throw me for a loop.

When I first got the implants, I plugged in my power supply on my laptop while holding the brick with the magnetized hand. I threw the brick as soon as it powered up because I thought I was getting shocked.

jedify210 karma

What does it feel like? Does it just tug on your fingertips? Does a strong AC field make it 'buzz'?

elgevillawngnome338 karma

Pretty much just a buzz. It's a similar feeling to when your fingertips go numb after hitting your elbow.

WeAllLoveRed132 karma


elgevillawngnome355 karma

It responds to moving magnetic fields. If the polarity is being rapidly changed, then it is the pushing and pulling that causes them to "buzz". They just aren't strong enough to pull my hand anywhere.

the_hypotenuse83 karma

So does DC feel different to AC?

elgevillawngnome240 karma

DC feels like it is tugging. AC feels like it is wiggling.

scurvebeard68 karma

Since I'm pretty ignorant on these sorts of things:

Are the magnetic fields largely confined to the power supply, or should I be concerned that I'll be feeling that sensation anytime I use my laptop?

elgevillawngnome110 karma

Largely focused around the power supply itself. I can really only feel the fan on my laptop, and that's only when my hand is on the underside of it.

helvete1337259 karma

Do you feel the earth's magnetic field?

elgevillawngnome344 karma

No. I really wish they were that strong. Maybe my fingers just aren't sensitive enough yet. Having a built in compass would be rather useful though.

elgevillawngnome475 karma

Mind = Blown.

Foreverrrrr258 karma

Do you find that you get shocked more from static, and does the shock intensify? Or are you able to avoid it more often?

elgevillawngnome256 karma

I really haven't noticed a change.

ratelbadger222 karma

Brother!! This is my AMA from a couple days ago:


We're already super attracted to each other! If you're ever in NYC, lets run around poking lamp posts and lifting paperclips together

elgevillawngnome101 karma

That's fucking awesome! Are your's working out for you? Did Brian do your implants? Unfortunately I'm in Louisville, KY.

ratelbadger139 karma

Mine are great, I love them. I got 1/4" ones.. the down sides are a little higher than yours I think. I'm more delicate that I was before. I can feel an empty microwave on high from 22". Honestly, I don't really think I need to have that sort of range.. but I love it anyway :)

I'm struggling with the math on what gauss strength I have. I estimate it at 450 gauss units assuming an 1/8" air gap.. as I don't think scar tissue and flesh would effect a field any more than air.

Next project is building a glove with a sonar module, arduino, and coils up my fingers. With the goal of navigating the house while blind. Thoughts?

elgevillawngnome63 karma

That's a strong ass implant!

And a cool sounding project. God speed!

CatRave176 karma

What do these fields feel/look like? Also, do you think there is such a thing as taking your job too seriously?

elgevillawngnome262 karma

Different magnetic fields have different signatures. A switch-mode power supply feels like a buzzing or a tingling. It's similar to the feeling you get in your fingertips when you hit your elbow. A big motor feels more like a pulsing when it's operating. I'm still having fun just wandering around and waving my hands at things.

As far as taking your job too seriously; ABSOLUTELY! Thankfully, I don't. Engineering is my passion. I've wanted to be an electrical engineer for as long as I can remember. I love the process of coming up with an idea and seeing it manifest into a final product. I did it for myself more than my career.

rhodes42128 karma

Can you feel different signals in wires? Would an audio signal create a sensation varying with the intensity of the sound?

I am a Computer Engineer and a musician, and I've heard about this before and find it really interesting.

Edit: Also, is the sensation precise enough and sensitive enough to perceive electrical activity in microchips?

elgevillawngnome234 karma

Absolutely! A 120V AC line has a very different feeling to a speaker cable. Voice coils themselves have a pretty neat feeling. You can pretty clearly feel the changing fields with the music.

phuzzyday159 karma

Here's one,

Are you getting tired of all the people asking the same questions over and over again?? Wow. I sometimes wish people would read, just a little.

elgevillawngnome256 karma

I swear. One more MRI question and I'm done.

iamMess182 karma

How do you cope with the fear of a MRI scan?

elgevillawngnome342 karma

By not getting one.

kendrahwithanh146 karma

i can't believe no one has asked yet.


elgevillawngnome144 karma

I see dead people...

helvete1337139 karma

How strong are the magnets?

elgevillawngnome207 karma

According to my cellphone's highly inaccurate magnetometer, ~600uT.

helvete1337100 karma

I have no idea, how strong that really is. Do they hold nails up or are they strong enough to erase a hard drive or something?

elgevillawngnome211 karma

Eh, about strong enough to hold up a staple. It's not enough to wipe a disc at all.

helvete133749 karma

Not that much, but awesome, though. Did you have any trouble with the magnets until now?

elgevillawngnome125 karma

I didn't really get them for the lifting potential. It's more the sixth sense aspect that tickles my fancy. No troubles yet!

FusionFountain130 karma

This is very cool but why did you do it and what are the most prominent benefits and downsides of having had this procedure.

elgevillawngnome263 karma

I did it because it gives me a sixth sense. I can feel fields that I wouldn't know were present before. My main reasoning is due to my profession. I'm going to be able to get a substantial amount of mileage out of the ability to "see" a magnetic field when I'm troubleshooting a wonky power supply or a motor that isn't correctly functioning.

Recently, I was able to troubleshoot a bad fuel injector in a car. That was pretty neat.

I haven't found many downsides, other than the crippling terror of what might happen if I get an MRI. The pain sucked for the first week, and was still kind of tender a couple more after that. Other than that, I haven't had any downsides to report :)

CokeHeadRob93 karma

Related question:

  1. How bad was the pain the first week? Sharp, dull, intense?

Unrelated questions:

  1. Would this procedure affect my computer at all? I spend a lot of time with it.

  2. Would this affect touch screens/graphics tablets?

  3. I highly doubt it would, but would it affect headphones in any way?

elgevillawngnome127 karma

1) Pretty intensely sore for the first week. Turn signals fucking sucked to use.

1b) No. 2) No. 3) No. But you can feel them, and it's awesome.

UofHCougarFan119 karma

I thought this was a stupid idea but you have proved me wrong. Enjoy your super powers.

elgevillawngnome91 karma


Oh I am.

FuckingBaked82 karma

Did the procedure include anything to reduce the pain? Did it hurt?

elgevillawngnome175 karma

Ice. Alcohol. Yes.

elitemrp412 karma

Alcohol on a wound sounds painful. And how does chewing ice help?

elgevillawngnome198 karma

Other way around.

Tyler145689 karma

Sounds like a legit surgeon right there.

elgevillawngnome66 karma

He's a body modification artist. It's generally the same thing if you get any other type of subdermal implant.

KaneHau68 karma

Curious if you ever experimented wearing magnetic rings (magicians use them) to see if you could get the same ability without the implant?

Edit: Like this

elgevillawngnome84 karma

You can, but you don't get the same level of sensitivity. Fields are much more vivid when the magnets are so close to your nerve endings.

Super_Z_Fighter67 karma

One of my first thoughts with your magenetic fingers is the chance to find a bug implanted on someone like in the spy movies. Can they work like that?

elgevillawngnome88 karma

If there is a decent amount of power coming from the radio, perhaps... It's kind of unlikely though. I "feel" the frequency of the field, and radio is probably way too high of a frequency to be able to feel.

GoWithChristBra59 karma

Do you ever worry about wiping your credit cards?

elgevillawngnome50 karma

I haven't had any problems.

T-Individual54 karma

What do you do for work that makes this so valuable? Are you in academia doing research?

elgevillawngnome77 karma

I am currently working as a graduate researcher/instructor in academia. Come August though, I plan on following a career path in power electronics. Not really sure where yet.

Jlocke9854 karma

do you plan on including the implant on your resume?

elgevillawngnome124 karma

Probably not... Might be seen as a safety hazard to the uninformed. That or I'd just look like a weirdo. I'd need to keep tattoos covered too. Body modification is kind of frowned upon in the engineering realm.

bast902136 karma

Body modification is kind of frowned upon in the engineering realm

Which is weird to me, you'd think engineers would be a little more responsive to transhumanism

elgevillawngnome129 karma


Crayz7532 karma

Pictures? During install, right after, current, anything?

elgevillawngnome35 karma

This album shows a couple of pictures during the procedure. The picture in the description shows the sutures right after the procedure was finished. I'll take a current picture when I get home.

KaneHau28 karma

Can you suggest a supplier of the type of coated magnet you used?

Also, which fingers? I would think the thumb, index, and ring finger would be the most interesting as it could let you see a 3d magnetic field.

elgevillawngnome41 karma

I've got them in my ring finger and thumb on my left hand. I wanted those two because they allow me to get the biggest separation while also not being totally in the way of daily activities.

Using a turn signal totally fucking sucked for a couple of weeks after I got them done though.

soratchet5g27 karma

Can your magnets stick to each other? If so what does it feel like?

elgevillawngnome32 karma

No, they aren't strong enough. I can feel a little deflection when I get them near each other. It just feels like pinching your fingertips together.