Can plants think? Michael Pollan asks the question. (SLNewYorker)
Recent technologies developed at American universities are making communication easier for the sight and hearing impaired. Last summer a Stanford undergrad developed a touchscreen Braille writer that stands to revolutionize how the blind negotiate an unseen world by replacing devices costing up to 10 times more. Thanks to a group of University of Houston students, the hearing impaired may soon have an easier time communicating with those who do not understand sign language. During the past semester, students in UH’s engineering technology and industrial design programs teamed up to develop the concept and prototype for MyVoice, a device that reads sign language and translates its motions into audible words, and vice versa.
Hacking the Senses: The brain is far more plastic than we commonly realize. Presenting new 'senses' via the old inputs works extremely well, to the point that long-term volunteers are a little lost without their new abilities to feel magnetic north or absolute orientation. Tasting direction; feeling pictures. Fascinating stuff. In a loosely related article, genetically modified mice are able to see the full color range visible to humans, even though the last natural mouse able to see this way died out a hundred million years ago. Add the new sensors, and the brain reconfigures. [via]
Beethoven stretches out and relaxes. Gorillas belch to let others know where they are. Fish sing the body electric (.mov, 12 MB) for food and safety. How has your own perception shaped your worldview?
Are you seeing the world differently? You may be suffering from synesthesia, a rare condition that allows an individual to perceive symbols in color. Someone who has synesthesia will read a newspaper in multitudinous colors, often perceiving a color change within particular syllables. In one case reported in this article, a man overhead a conversation in Korean, only to have his mind inundated with colors, despite being unable to understand the words. Rare condition or a state of sensory cognition to come?
Cool high-school science experiment: Mapping The Homunculus. The 15 year old in me wonders why nipples and other naughty bits aren't mentioned, though. Bet they'd be really big!!!