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Biotech Science

Hacking Our Five Senses and Building New Ones 290

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the where-is-my-x-ray-vision dept.
ryanguill writes "Wired has an article about expanding your five (maybe six) senses to allow you to sense other things such as direction. It also talks about hijacking other senses to compensate for missing senses, such as using electrodes in your mouth to compensate for lack of eyesight. Another example is a subject wearing a belt with 13 vibrating pads. The pad pointing north would vibrate giving you a sense of direction no matter your orientation: '"It was slightly strange at first," Wächter says, "though on the bike, it was great." He started to become more aware of the peregrinations he had to make while trying to reach a destination. "I finally understood just how much roads actually wind," he says. He learned to deal with the stares he got in the library, his belt humming like a distant chain saw. Deep into the experiment, Wächter says, "I suddenly realized that my perception had shifted. I had some kind of internal map of the city in my head. I could always find my way home. Eventually, I felt I couldn't get lost, even in a completely new place."'"
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Hacking Our Five Senses and Building New Ones

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  • Chose a sense (Score:5, Interesting)

    by moniker127 (1290002) on Monday May 18, 2009 @03:14PM (#28001467)
    I chose emf detection. That would be handy.
    • Re:Chose a sense (Score:4, Interesting)

      by bcmm (768152) on Monday May 18, 2009 @03:17PM (#28001521)
      There was someone a couple of years back who implanted tiny magnets in his fingers. He said he could feel vibration from alternating fields.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        Several people have done this (google pulls up feelingwaves.blogspot.com/ ). Apparently super gluing to your fingers also works, albeit less effectively.

        • The advantage of gluing is that you don't have to dig the disintegrated fragments of magnet out of your fingertip when they eventually start to corrode.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by vlm (69642)

            The glove method is even safer, more quickly reversible, and arguably cheaper, since you don't need glue and probably already own gloves.

            Can either use little magnets stuffed in the pointer fingertip of the gloves, or big ole hard drive magnets kind of held in the palm. Or both, I suppose, but be careful they don't stick together.

            I've tried this and it works quite well until your hands sweat too much from the gloves being too warm inside the house. Old fashioned linear power supplies are much more enterta

            • Re:Chose a sense (Score:5, Interesting)

              by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday May 18, 2009 @04:44PM (#28002743) Journal
              If you want to feel magnetic braking, you should have everything you need in the guts of any computer manufactured in the last 5 or 10 years. The bottom of a CPU heatsink is generally a nice thick slug of aluminum or copper. Highly conductive but nonferrous. Pop it off, wipe the thermal grease away, and move a hard drive magnet, or small stack thereof, just over the surface. It is a really weird feeling.
            • Re:Chose a sense (Score:5, Informative)

              by beckerist (985855) on Monday May 18, 2009 @06:25PM (#28004111) Homepage
              I thought we had 11 senses... [wikipedia.org]
              Why do we keep teaching that we have 5!?!?!

              Example: what direction is "down?"
              • by Tubal-Cain (1289912) on Monday May 18, 2009 @10:37PM (#28006309) Journal

                Example: what direction is "down?"

                Towards the enemy's gate.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by uglyduckling (103926)
                It's just an oft-repeated myth. It can be easily proven: put your hands on your knees, close your eyes then touch your nose with one or both index fingers. Now explain which of the "five senses" (touch, taste, smell, sight, hearing) allowed you to do that with accuracy. Touch allowed you to know that you'd done it, but it was proprioception and to a lesser extent vestibular sense that allowed you to do it.
              • Re:Chose a sense (Score:4, Informative)

                by jackchance (947926) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @11:46PM (#28021531) Homepage

                I thought we had 11 senses... [wikipedia.org] Why do we keep teaching that we have 5!?!?!

                As is pretty clear from the wiki link in the parent post, stopping at 11 human senses is about as arbitrary as stopping at 5 human senses.

                So how many senses do we have?

                You can take a reductionist approach, and count the different type of "sensory receptors" in an organism. Let's define a sensory receptor [wikipedia.org] as a protein on a peripheral neuron that responds to external events. However, this definition leads us to the conclusion that each kind of cone in the retina [wikipedia.org] is a different sense. This implies that vision is 4 senses (3 cone types, and 1 rod type of photoreceptors) and not 1 sense. If we did the same for touch [thinkquest.org],smell [wikipedia.org], and the other ' traditional senses' we would arrive at a number over a thousands (Ok... smell is most of that , but even without smell there are many more than 11).

                We get into even more trouble if we allow our definition to include changes in the central nervous system [wikipedia.org] (the brain and spinal cord) caused by external events. For example, inhaling, ingesting, or injecting stuffs leads to changes in varied receptors in the brain. Is this a sense? When you fall down and hit your head, that induced changes in the brain. Is that a sense? When you get an unexpected reward, your brain gives you some dopamine. By this definition you could say that you have a 'dopamine' sense.

                The other approach, which might be more intuitive (and is closer to the classic definition), is a systems level approach. We see, we hear, we smell, we touch, we taste. 5 senses. And we feel acceleration, we feel sharp pain, and dull pain, and burning pain, etc. But if these are all senses, why not include the other feelings? Feeling afraid, sad, happy, horny, sneaky, humiliated, disgusted. These feelings can also be caused by external events. In fact, in the mac dictionary, one definition of feeling is "experience a sensation".

                There are valid [wikipedia.org] historical reasons [annualreviews.org] why we separate things like vision from things like sadness. But as we learn more about brain and behavior those reasons are fading. So instead of asking how many senses we have, maybe we should be asking what's the rank [wikipedia.org] of human experience?

                and yes, IAAN (i am a neuroscientist).

      • Re:Chose a sense (Score:5, Informative)

        by EdZ (755139) on Monday May 18, 2009 @03:40PM (#28001885)
        Quite a few people have done it since. Current experimentation is with finding a method of encapsulating the magnets that will not breakdown inside the body. Silicon dipping leaves thin spots at the corners of the magnet, and no company will use PVD coating on small sample quantities of magnets
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        That would be pretty cool if you could do it with nonferrous electromagnets. Implanting magnets or indeed anything magnetically attracted in your skin is fucking stupid. They could be powered by glucose (too lazy to link) and be wrapped right around a nerve fiber or something so they could be truly minuscule and yet still detectable.

        • by Phasma Felis (582975) on Monday May 18, 2009 @04:36PM (#28002635)

          That would be pretty cool if you could do it with nonferrous electromagnets. Implanting magnets or indeed anything magnetically attracted in your skin is fucking stupid.

          Yeah, you'd better hope you never need an MRI for anything.

          I think they should make 'em modular, myself. Just flip up your fingernail to access the space. If you're not using them for magnets, you could transport secret messages, say, or extra Tabasco for your lunch. Don't see any way for that to go wrong!

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Kreigaffe (765218)

            Tabasco under your fingernail.

            Yes, capital idea! I don't see any way that could turn disastrously painful either!

      • by lessthan (977374)
        Linky [bmezine.com] Be careful, some of the site is definitely NSFW.
    • by Kagura (843695) on Monday May 18, 2009 @03:30PM (#28001721)
      I can already sense many EM waves, from deep infrared to bright purple.
    • by BikeHelmet (1437881) on Monday May 18, 2009 @06:49PM (#28004363) Journal

      I already have extra senses(or extra strong; same thing), and I can tell you they're damn annoying.

      I can locate electronics by the extremely annoying ringing/screeching sounds they emit. It was an utter pain finding a clock for beside my bed; I finally settled on one that runs off an AAA battery, and only needs a new battery every couple years. No audible noise coming from it.

      I can locate TVs, monitors(CRTs, malfunctioning LCDs), DVD players, and some PSUs and Mobos by the sounds they make. Some devices still make sounds when "off", and others don't. Even some power bricks make annoying sounds. Some cordless phones do too; one actually gave me headaches, but most don't.

      (it really is hit or miss, per device rather than per model; device quality really must vary!)

      That's one of the reasons that my main computer is an Athlon XP 2400+; it doesn't make any annoying noises... though I suppose the 4000RPM fan is a tad loud. ;) But at least it isn't screeching at me!

      Having a sense of direction would be neat, but let me assure you super hearing isn't what it's cracked up to be. It might be acceptable if I was surrounded by the outdoors, but surrounded by electronic gadgets... gah!

      Interestingly, it appears to be genetic. My Uncle could hear that "Mosquito teen repellent" noise until 50-55 years old.

      I don't like crowds, because I have trouble understanding what people are saying over the background noise. :/

  • Slashporn (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    such as using electrodes in your mouth to compensate for lack of eyesight. Another example is a subject wearing a belt with 13 vibrating pads.

    Sounds like a good BDSM porno. The electrodes go well with the ball and chain and magic wand.

    • by koutbo6 (1134545) on Monday May 18, 2009 @03:29PM (#28001717)
      Instead of rushing to get a FP anonymously and making my day, I bet the guy next to me that we will get a porn related comment within the next 10 minutes.
      Needless to say, I won my bet from the 2nd post!
    • Sounds like a good BDSM porno. The electrodes go well with the ball and chain and magic wand.

      I'm glad that I wasn't the only one to notice this BDSM trend today on Slashdot.

      I was beginning to think that I should cut back on my DMT consumption.

      Next we might see a post about advertising these electrode ball and chain magic wand services on Craigslist.

  • That's easy (Score:5, Funny)

    by SoundGuyNoise (864550) on Monday May 18, 2009 @03:19PM (#28001549) Homepage
    Smission. I wouldn't want to use taste to compensate for vision. Have you licked a Buick lately? Not as sweet as they were in the 50s.
    • by vlm (69642)

      Have you licked a Buick lately? Not as sweet as they were in the 50s.

      Uh, thats the anti-freeze. The old glycol was terribly toxic and terribly sweet tasting. I am told the new dexcool stuff does not taste sweet.

    • It gives a whole new meaning to "Taste the Rainbow".
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by corbettw (214229)

      That would bring a whole new level of intimacy to oral sex.

  • electrodes (Score:5, Funny)

    by snarkh (118018) on Monday May 18, 2009 @03:19PM (#28001551)

    It also talks about hijacking other senses to compensate for missing senses, such as using electrodes in your mouth to compensate for lack of eyesight.

    They used to do it in Guantanamo.

  • Am I the only one... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Drinking Bleach (975757) on Monday May 18, 2009 @03:20PM (#28001575)

    that was immediately reminded of Geordi's visor?

  • DMT (Score:5, Funny)

    by F34nor (321515) on Monday May 18, 2009 @03:21PM (#28001591)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dimethyltryptamine [wikipedia.org] is responsible for the 6th sense, imaginary friends, self replicating machine elves, and telepathy... bitches.

  • Hmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by shellster_dude (1261444) on Monday May 18, 2009 @03:26PM (#28001645)
    I am pretty sure that the first thought, of the mother and kids in the library, when they saw/heard your pants vibrating, did not involve your enhanced sense of direction.
  • Compass belt (Score:5, Insightful)

    by evanbd (210358) on Monday May 18, 2009 @03:27PM (#28001655)

    I built one of the compass belts. You don't need 13 motors. Four is plenty. Of course, you want finer resolution than just the four cardinal directions -- so you have the intensity of the vibration vary. If you make the strength of vibration of the motor vary sinusoidally with the angle, so that when a particular motor is pointing directly north it vibrates at full strength, and when directly south not at all, you'll get a very smooth response. You can easily resolve direction to 10-15 degrees precision with just four motors, and the analog response is less distracting than having motors suddenly turn on and off.

    You can also do the analog response without a microprocessor -- the two-axis electronic compass sensors are really two sensors, each sensing the component of the field along their sensitive axis, which gives precisely the sin(theta) response curve you want. The microprocessor gets replaced by a couple op amps, and you cut the motor count dramatically, which saves a fair bit on the cost.

    Power required to run the vibrator motors is noticeable. I get about 12-14 hours battery life from 4x NiMH AA cells. The next version will improve that a bit (PWM control instead of linear for the motors); the prototype was designed with circuit simplicity as the primary goal.

    I don't have a complete schematic or parts list online; circuit design was done on paper and in my head while soldering it together. You can find a description and pictures here [sf0.org].

    • Re:Compass belt (Score:5, Interesting)

      by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday May 18, 2009 @03:51PM (#28002011) Homepage Journal

      It would make a lot more sense to use piezos than vibrators. They also don't need to run constantly. I'm told that at high frequencies the piezo vibration resembles pressure more than vibration, but have no personal experience.

      • Re:Compass belt (Score:5, Interesting)

        by evanbd (210358) on Monday May 18, 2009 @04:00PM (#28002115)
        I'll look into piezos. I've been meaning to build an updated version for a while now. Also, they *do* need to run constantly. How would it know when to run and when not to? With it constantly on, your brain tunes it out at a conscious level and you stop noticing it, but you still know what direction North is. Having it turn on or off would be distracting.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by drinkypoo (153816)

          Also, they *do* need to run constantly. How would it know when to run and when not to?

          No, I mean, it can just send short pulses every second or so.

          Having it turn on or off would be distracting.

          Having it at all would be distracting, until you got used to it.

          • by evanbd (210358)

            Also, they *do* need to run constantly. How would it know when to run and when not to?

            No, I mean, it can just send short pulses every second or so.

            That's far more distracting than continuous.

            Having it turn on or off would be distracting.

            Having it at all would be distracting, until you got used to it.

            Getting used to it takes a few hours. Then you don't really notice it unless you pay attention to it specifically.

            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              No, I mean, it can just send short pulses every second or so.

              That's far more distracting than continuous.

              It might train your direction sense faster as a result. There's only one good way to find out...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by robably (1044462)
      I wouldn't want a belt, but a piezoelectric armband might be less conspicuous and use less power. I can see these being built in to watch straps, too - your arm does change orientation much more often than your torso, which is presumably why they went with a belt, but combined with an accelerometer it wouldn't matter whether your arm was pointing up or down as the device could compensate.
      • by evanbd (210358)

        A proper version of the belt (surface mount components on a custom PCB, to reduce size) would be fairly inconspicuous. The batteries are the bulkiest component at that point, and even those aren't too large. The motors could be attached to a normal leather belt, and the remainder would be about the same size as a cell phone or pager, and comparably inconspicuous.

        Reduced power would be a big improvement (lighter batteries and longer runtime would both be good). Do you have a suggested part for the piezo u

        • by robably (1044462)

          Do you have a suggested part for the piezo units?

          No, wouldn't know where to start looking. The closest I've used are electromagnetic relays (out of washing machines).
          Maybe small locking sprung relays? Power pulls it inwards to touch your skin, it locks, when the direction changes the lock is released and the spring pulls it back and another relay is triggered. Power (for the relay) is only needed when you change direction. I've never seen relays that small, though. Ideally you'd want a watch strap with ru

        • by robably (1044462)

          surface mount components on a custom PCB, to reduce size

          Or an iPhone app plus an armband connected by a wire or bluetooth. There's a million dollar idea for you.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by evanbd (210358)

            surface mount components on a custom PCB, to reduce size

            Or an iPhone app plus an armband connected by a wire or bluetooth. There's a million dollar idea for you.

            Why? The iPhone doesn't have the sensors you need, and even if it did, you don't want the output changing as you move your phone. Besides, the components required to do Bluetooth are as complicated as the components needed to do the entire thing self-contained.

    • Re:Compass belt (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Stray7Xi (698337) on Monday May 18, 2009 @05:53PM (#28003729)

      Wouldn't a mild current be better? It would eliminate the issues with sound/vibration, and it should cause the batteries to last longer. Granted it would require direct contact to skin, but I would think something could easily be done by wiring the lining of underwear. The compass, power and electronics would be in a detachable unit, so it'd be completely washable (probably would want low heat for dryer). I suspect once you get some practice (with a decent plan) it wouldn't take more then a few minutes to wire a new set of underwear. It'd be cheap and invisible but you'd have to calibrate the compass based on where you clip it.

      I was actually thinking a while ago of a similar project. It would have several antennas (or ultrasonic emitters) and similar electrical feedback to act as a shortrange radar. So you'd be able to sense things behind you. Perhaps use a pulsed doppler system it could track range, speed and cross-section size. With a little computation it could even predict if something will hit you at an unsafe speed (spidey sense!). The main problem is where it could be put without a lot of noise, if it was a belt your arms would interfere with it. A collar would probably work best but it'd be fugly.

  • by praetorblue (1395623) on Monday May 18, 2009 @03:27PM (#28001657)

    It'd be fascinating to see radio waves, overlaid on your normal vision.

    Any radio science buffs have ideas of what it would look like?

    I'm guessing it'd be a constant semi-transparent haze. But since radio waves are directional, and some are limited by varying altitudes, I'd imagine there must be some gradation you could perceive.

    • by Alarindris (1253418) on Monday May 18, 2009 @03:31PM (#28001725)
      You wouldn't likely see anything at all. When you see light, you don't see the actual beams, you see what is reflected off of objects. With radio passing through just about everything, you probably couldn't see anything.
      • by Aqualung812 (959532) on Monday May 18, 2009 @03:57PM (#28002085)
        You can still see light sources. I would assume you'd be see every radio source, from your cell phone to your speakers.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Chyeld (713439)

        When you see light, you most assuredly do 'see' the actual beams, as they bounce off objects. That is the entire mechanic.

        As such, if you were to come up with a magical "radio wave" detector that worked just as eyes do, you'd see areas in your FOV which were 'brighter' as radio waves bounced off them or something actually emitted them (similar to a light bulb).

        And as a resident of an urban environment that has to deal with bounced TV signals screwing up my reception all the time, I can assure you that while

        • by ultranova (717540)

          The real question would be: how would you map the various radio wave lengths to what your eyes would actually be able to see?

          The best solution would be to bypass your eyes entirely and simply map the thing directly to your vision cortex. Use a phased array of implanted wires to get 360 degree detection, combine with a microprocessor to translate the info into amplitude and frequency in every direction, and this data in paired cables into the brain. Sure, it would be an utter mess at first, but after a few

      • You wouldn't likely see anything at all. When you see light, you don't see the actual beams, you see what is reflected off of objects. With radio passing through just about everything, you probably couldn't see anything.

        Silly question: What am I seeing, then, when I look at a clear lightbulb that's on...other than a bright light?

    • by evanbd (210358) on Monday May 18, 2009 @03:34PM (#28001779)
      The long wavelength would make it tricky. What it would look like would depend on how you rendered them, I suppose. The real problem is the diffraction limit -- without a really large sensor, you can't get a very useful resolution. Remember, your eyes have an aperture (pupil) size about 10,000 times larger than the wavelengths of interest. So any vision based on wavelengths in the centimeter range (2.4 GHz wireless is 125mm, compared to 550nm for green light) will be *really* blurry unless you're carrying a gigantic antenna array.
    • I've thought about this but since radio waves tend to pass through most materials, you'd probably be very aware of sources of radio waves (towers). It might be akin to living in a glass house where you don't have any light bulbs in the house. Radio waves tend to reflect off of hard surfaces, which results in a special form of interference known as multi-path, so there would be some reflections, but you'd probably find yourself not seeing anything transparent to radio waves.

      That and due to the inverse squa
    • Due to the wavelengths involved, your radio "eyes" would have to be quite large to get any kind of resolution at all. Depending on the frequencies you want to be able to see, we could be talking meters.

  • We have SEVEN senses (Score:5, Informative)

    by inviolet (797804) <slashdot@ideasma ... g minus caffeine> on Monday May 18, 2009 @03:28PM (#28001691) Journal

    This "five senses" garbage is a favorite example of mine for illustrating how everyone, everywhere, including textbooks, can be obviously mistaken about something 'factual'.

    Our sixth sense is accelleration, and the sense organ responsible for this is the semicircular canals in our inner ear. It's how we know where 'down' is, and life would be difficult without this sense. Our seventh sense is proprioception, derived from muscle feedback all over the body.

    These qualify as 'senses' because they convert environmental information directly into sensations.

    Now, while we're on the subject of ubiquitous factual errors, let's talk about how flat- and symmetric-winged aircraft can fly without any help from the Bernoulli effect.

    • We have 23 senses (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 18, 2009 @03:35PM (#28001803)

      In my biological psychology class, we covered 23 distinct senses that provide use with environmental information.

    • Bernoulli (Score:5, Informative)

      by wonkavader (605434) on Monday May 18, 2009 @03:40PM (#28001869)

      "Now, while we're on the subject of ubiquitous factual errors, let's talk about how flat- and symmetric-winged aircraft can fly without any help from the Bernoulli effect."

      Heck, yeah. It's nutty and irresponsible how we pump everyone full of the Bernoulli effect with respect to flight. With low power systems, you probably need the Bernoulli effect, but the more power you have, the more we're talking about a sled/surfboard, rather than an airfoil. This is true in old Cesnas, for goodness sake, and they are tiny and light. Still, the wing generally isn't giving you quite enough lift to keep you up when you fly with the nose completely flat. You MUST have some sledding angle against the oncoming airstream to maintain altitude.

      • Re:Bernoulli (Score:4, Informative)

        by inviolet (797804) <slashdot@ideasma ... g minus caffeine> on Monday May 18, 2009 @03:51PM (#28002007) Journal

        Still, the wing generally isn't giving you quite enough lift to keep you up when you fly with the nose completely flat. You MUST have some sledding angle against the oncoming airstream to maintain altitude.

        No airplane seeking to maintain altitude flies with the nose completely flat; the nose is always pitched slightly upward in order to shove air downward with the wings. At speed it happens that the pitch angle is very small -- too small to notice -- but it's there. It has to be. Yes, I'm a private pilot.

        You could make a Bernoulli wing to accomplish the same thing, but then it would interfere at other angles of attack. In particular, a pronounced hump on the top of the wing would make the wing more prone to airflow separation and stalling.

        • Re:Bernoulli (Score:5, Interesting)

          by icebrain (944107) on Monday May 18, 2009 @04:18PM (#28002397)

          No airplane seeking to maintain altitude flies with the nose completely flat; the nose is always pitched slightly upward in order to shove air downward with the wings. At speed it happens that the pitch angle is very small -- too small to notice -- but it's there. It has to be. Yes, I'm a private pilot.

          Actually, the B-52 can often be seen flying nose down in level flight. It takes off and lands fuselage-level.

          Why?

          Because it's not the fuselage angle that matters, it's the angle of attack relative to the wing. And the B-52's wing is set so that it is at a positive angle of attack relative relative to the oncoming air when the fuselage is level. This pre-set wing angle is called "incidence".

          For small angles of attack, you can generally assume that a graph of lift vs. angle of attack is linear. A symmetrical wing will have an X-intercept of 0 (so at zero angle of attack, you get no lift). Adding positive camber slides that X-intercept negative, so to get zero lift you actually need a negative angle of attack. You will also have positive lift at zero angle of attack.

          I think the discussions about AOA and other topics are covered far too lightly in most pilot training courses. It also seems to me that it would be very useful to put all new students into some kind of simulator (even just a PC fighter sim) with a heads-up display showing nose "boresight" and a flight path marker, and demonstrating the relationship between alpha, weight, lift, and airspeed in a format that is clearly visible and understandable. Even just 20 or 30 minutes of this might give them a far better understanding of what's actually happening when they're flying.

          Yes, I'm a private pilot too. And when I eventually get around to building my airpane, it's going to have a nice prominent AOA indicator, which is far superior to just airspeed for slow flight, maneuvering, and landing.

    • by panthroman (1415081) on Monday May 18, 2009 @03:40PM (#28001877) Homepage

      These qualify as 'senses' because they convert environmental information directly into sensations.

      By that definition, why not count your sense of humor?

    • by 7Prime (871679)

      Sounds about like a flying Segway (Stealth Bomber)

    • Depending on how fine you slice it, we have a lot more than five (or six) senses. There are four kinds of receptors in the eyes, five on the tongue, and more than a dozen for smell. Even something as simple as the sense of touch can be broken down into pressure and temperature (and probably something else that I'm forgetting), each with its own specialized nerves to detect the appropriate stimulus. Then there are the meta-senses that are assembled by the brain from raw sensory data: varying pressure on the

    • The curved upper surface of the wing produces lift somehow. The upward lift force is equal to the downward force of gravity (equal forces in opposite directions). As soon as a plane rolls inverted the lift from the wing and the downward force of gravity are acting in the same direction and the aircraft immediately accelerates downward at 2 g (19.6 m/s/s).
    • Our "sense of direction" is a cognitive property, not a sense, no more than our "sense of humor".

      Similarly I consider proprioception to fall under the "touch" category, since it uses the same nerve endings. If you separate proprioception then the same logic can say temperature is another sense, texture another, pain, wind, etc. They're all cognitive interpretations of the same stimuli apparatus.

  • " I could always find my way home. Eventually, I felt I couldn't get lost, even in a completely new place."

    I would hope so. For this watchman "Wachter" to get lost in his town would be like me getting lost in my bathroom.
  • by panthroman (1415081) on Monday May 18, 2009 @03:30PM (#28001723) Homepage

    Only recently have we realized that cows and deer have a sense of magnetic direction [pnas.org]. Just this month, the same group found that power lines can muddle the cattle's sense of direction [pnas.org].

    It's a stretch, but is it possible we humans have a weak magnetic sense that's simply drowned out by urban noise?

    Surely there have been studies on this. Anyone?

  • by rs232 (849320) on Monday May 18, 2009 @03:35PM (#28001805)
    I can see a use for pilots to help in navigation, an all over body suit with electrodes and a HUD interacting with vibrations and colors to produce a map he can feel, as in turbulence would be more viscous that clear air. Or incoming obstables, the vibration to get your attention and the color on the HUD to tell you what it is. You could also combine it with sound ..
    --

    Requesting records in non-MS formats FoF 381002R [whatdotheyknow.com] Mar 03 2009
  • Just makes sense (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mcrbids (148650) on Monday May 18, 2009 @03:36PM (#28001811) Journal

    We are entering an age of information awareness. We literally have machines that can now read our minds. We would be remiss to not take advantage of this!

    I'm a pilot, and for a long time, I stubbornly stuck to the "old way" of navigation using VOR radio navigation rather than the newer GPS-based systems. Basically, every 50 miles or so, there's a radio beacon that broadcasts a directional radio signal that you can triangulate from. My logic was that virtually all planes have some kind of VOR in them, while perhaps 1/3 of planes have GPS units.

    But I recently "bit the bullet" and learned to use the GPS in the newer rental plane at the local airport. I noticed it immediately: what a difference! Last week, I flew to an airport I hadn't landed at before - something that's always just a bit nerve-racking with radio navigation due to the unfamiliarity. Typically, I've made it a habit to fly in direct to the "new" airport 1,000 feet above the local traffic pattern to get my bearings and prepare an approach - adding a fair amount of time circling around and so on.

    But with the GPS locating me to within a few feet on a "moving map", I was confidently making calls as to my location and whereabouts, and made a direct base approach right to the numbers on the runway! No hunting, no worries about traffic patterns. Just straight in.

    No, I didn't surgically implant the GPS unit, but it's clearly a case of technology using the sense of sight to improve informational awareness. I'm all for it! If I could (safely) have a bluetooth display of my mobile phone surgically implanted into my brain so that I could, at any time, access google maps, etc. it would dramatically change how I interface with the world. Just think of the advantages:

    1) I'd never get lost.

    2) I'd be able to look up new words and concepts as needed, seamlessly.

    3) I'd be able to make use of "dead time" such as while driving/flying. (most of the latter is spent at cruise altitude letting the auto-pilot get you there)

    This is the future. We already approximate it with our mobile phones - technology will become ever more intimate as we approach the technology singularity.

    Get ready for it! Weeeeeeeh!

    • This is the future. We already approximate it with our mobile phones - technology will become ever more intimate as we approach the technology singularity.

      Until we run out of the materials needed to maintain the ubiquity of technology (or they become scarce enough to be too expensive for ubiquitous use).

      I'm no luddite, but there are tons of costs associated with technology... and I wonder how long we can support those costs, and what we're willing to do to ensure continued access to those requirements. Ec

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by fabs64 (657132)

        A pessimist is usually right but only an optimist will change the world.

  • See Hear (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Monday May 18, 2009 @03:39PM (#28001851) Homepage Journal

    I once read where some researchers learned to "read" spoken words from printed sound spectragrams, where frequency (in various shades based on density) is on one axis and time on the other. This made me wonder whether deaf people couldn't also learn to read them at a near real-time pace with practice. At the time a custom-manufactured device seemed like the way to go, but now an off-the-shelf hand-held computer/phone/PDA is probably up to the task with the right software and mike.

    • by 7Prime (871679)

      I'm guessing that quite a few audio engineers can do that from a simple waveform (without colorcoded FFT). I do quite a bit of audio production, both for music and for TV. No, I haven't yet learned how to distinguish exact phonetics, but if I know what a person is saying, I can pretty easilly tell which sound goes where. It's taught me a lot about speech phrasing and aspiration. Abviously, without some kind of FFT deliniation (as you were talking about), it would be very difficult to tell the difference bet

  • This was cool when I first read it...in 2007 [wired.com].

    And it was cool when I was in the Slashdot thread [slashdot.org] as well.

  • by w0mprat (1317953) on Monday May 18, 2009 @03:59PM (#28002111)

    Brother Cavil: "I don't want to be human! I want to see gamma rays! I want to hear X-rays! And I want to - I want to smell dark matter! Do you see the absurdity of what I am? I can't even express these things properly because I have to - I have to conceptualize complex ideas in this stupid limiting spoken language! But I know I want to reach out with something other than these prehensile paws! And feel the wind of a supernova flowing over me! I'm a machine! And I can know much more! I can experience so much more. But I'm trapped in this absurd body! And why? Because my five creators thought that God wanted it that way!"

  • Hijacking the senses. I call writing as prior art if they ever try to patent the broad category...
  • This article is just a summary of several stories from the last 3-4 years. It didn't even mention the really interesting applications for the tongue port device. They are developing a version to be used by the Navy to give divers a version of sonar. Link [couleenews.com]
  • 4 strength 4 stam leather belt AAAHHHHHHHHHH level 18 UHHHH UUUUUHHHHHH!!
  • Common sense (Score:3, Insightful)

    by argent (18001) <peterNO@SPAMslashdot.2006.taronga.com> on Monday May 18, 2009 @04:51PM (#28002883) Homepage Journal

    If only they could develop artificial common sense.

  • by peter303 (12292) on Monday May 18, 2009 @05:17PM (#28003285)
    There was an article about the evolution of color vision in primates in a recent issues of Scientific American. Most mammals only see two primary colors while higher primates see three. The hypothesis is this helps distinguish plant foods better.

    The primate third color gene is on the X-chromosome next to the 2nd color gene. The evolutionary mechanism is thought to be gene duplication with mutation of one copy. This mechanism very common. Some human females have been observed to have a fourth color gene which is similar to the recently evolved one.

    Scientists have inserted the 3rd color gene into rats which normally just have two genes. These rats can be trained to can distinguish more subtle colors then. Apparently no extra genes are need to wire the brain to see extra colors.
  • Practical experiment (Score:3, Interesting)

    by serutan (259622) <snoopdougNO@SPAMgeekazon.com> on Monday May 18, 2009 @06:44PM (#28004319) Homepage

    Many years ago when I was interested in psychic powers, I figured that if we really do have some kind of extrasensory perception it's probably our nervous system that's doing it, just in some unknown way, So I tried an experiment to make my nervous system a transducer that would convert unknown sense X to a sensation I could consciously feel.

    I placed a glass of water on a table and practiced moving my hand slowly back and forth in front of it, imagining a tremendous pressure pushing against the palm of my hand as it passed the water. After a few minutes practice I began to actually feel it with my hand. Presumably this was the power of suggestion. I repeated for about 10 minutes with my eyes closed, knowing where the water was. I went through this routine 3 nights in a row, and by the third night the pressure feeling seemed very tangible and seemed to come unbidden.

    So the next night I had a friend test me in a restaurant. She placed a glass of water on the table in front of me while I covered my ears so I wouldn't hear her movements. Then with my eyes closed I slowly swept my hand across in front of me until I felt the pressure sensation, and when I opened my eyes the water was in front of my hand.

    At her request I tried to do it again, but this time I felt nothing. It turned out there was no glass there -- she had tried to fool me and was holding it under the table. We laughed about it and I never did any further experimenting. The results were probably just coincidence, but interesting.

Optimism is the content of small men in high places. -- F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Crack Up"

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