Medicine: Convulsion by Television

At least 1,800 years before television caused its first headaches, bargain hunters in the slave markets of Rome submitted prospective purchases to a trial as nerve-racking as watching a badly adjusted picture tube. Before a slave was bought and paid for, he was forced to stare at a potter's wheel rotating rapidly in bright sunlight. If the flicker caused the slave to keel over, the deal was off. Seizures before the spinning potter's wheel were taken as a sign of "the falling sickness," the Roman name for epilepsy.

Though the slave markets are long gone, flicker epilepsy has returned—a byproduct of modern...

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