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"My father was a master mechanic; I grew up with a screwdriver in one hand and a pair of pliers in the other."
- Frank Herbert

Protophason Amplifier  
  Detects brain activity of those in half-life.  

In Ubik, a technology called "cold-pac" allowed people to exist in a kind of life after death. Called "half-life" it slowly diminished over time, but you could still talk with your loved ones. Sort of.

"Twill only be a moment," Herbert made his way back to the cold-pac bins to search out number 3054039-B.

When he located the correct party he scrutinized the lading report attached. It gave only fifteen days of half-life remaining. Not very much, he reflected; automatically he pressed a portable protophason amplifier into the transparent plastic hull of the casket, tuned it, listened at the proper frequency for indication of cephalic activity.

Faintly from the speaker a voice said, "... and then Tillie sprained her ankle and we never thought it'd heal...

Satisfied he unplugged the amplifier and located a union man to perform the actual task of carting 3054039-B to the consultation lounge, where the customer would be put in touch with the old lady.

From Ubik, by Philip K. Dick.
Published by Doubleday in 1969
Additional resources -

Compare to the brain-case from Murder in the Void (1938) by Edmond Hamilton.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Ubik
  More Ideas and Technology by Philip K. Dick
  Tech news articles related to Ubik
  Tech news articles related to works by Philip K. Dick

Protophason Amplifier-related news articles:
  - Facilitated Communication With Coma Man Bogus?
  - Measuring Awareness In Comatose Patients
  - Can Patients In A Vegetative State Communicate?

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