It's like something out of a fantasy novel: a magical hat that can boost your cognitive powers.
But this thinking cap is real--and who knows, maybe someday you might be able to put one on anytime you need a boost in brainpower... or at least when you want to feel smarter while watching "Jeopardy."
The experimental hat delivers an electrical jolt to the brain, and Australian researchers say it can change how you think--making you better able to solve problems, especially when math is involved.
And to prove it, the researchers presented 60 people with a series of normally simple math problems that were made far more challenging by the fact that they were done in matchsticks arranged to look like Roman numerals.
Then, they were told to solve the problems by making a single change.
Here's one, and if you have any matchsticks around give it a try:
III = IX--I
Give up yet?
The puzzle says 3 = 9--1, which is obviously wrong. But changing the "X" into a "V" turns it into III = IV--I, or 3 = 4--1.
If you got it right, congratulations--because only 20 percent of the people without thinking caps managed to pull it off.
Once the juice started flowing through the brain, however, 60 percent solved this and other similar puzzles.
Researchers say they believe the electrical jolt reduces activity in the region of the brain known as the left anterior temporal lobe, and increases activity in the right.
And if you're not wearing your own thinking cap at the moment, that simply means the brain balance is altered in a way that allows people to better understand--and solve--mathematical problems.
This would have come in handy back in high school.
Of course, the "magic" behind the thinking cap could be the result of something much simpler: An electric jolt just makes you more alert, awake, and focused.
We won't know for sure until this is studied further.
And even if the zaps really do boost brainpower, researchers say it would be years before a practical thinking cap is made--if ever.
But if these things do hit the market, I think they should come with team logos on them. Fans could wear them to the game, and bring their taunting to a cerebral new level: "Your defense-independent pitching statistics tell me you're not nearly as good as your earned-run average indicates!"
Ballplayers would wish for the good old days of "YOU STINK!"