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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Science Column – Are Six Senses Really Too Much To Ask For?

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In honor of the Viewpoint theme this week, I would like to say that I did try very hard to think of something to write about music. But to be honest, I also must admit that I, personally, have no internal rhythm and am tone deaf so that would make me feel like a person trapped in a basement trying to write about the weather.

But it did get me thinking about the five senses and what it means for something to be a sense. As humans we have five senses (hopefully not a surprise): sight, touch, taste, sound, and smell. But we also can do a lot of things and perceive a lot of different stimuli, so what exactly categorizes a sense?

I browsed a few different dictionary sources and the general consensus seems to be that a sense is a faculty that allows us to perceive an external stimuli. Thinking about it, senses really are a feat of evolution. We have five appendage groups that are exposed to external environment (eyes, ears, nose, skin and tongue). When these appendages receive information from the outside world the message is transmitted, as an electric potential, via our neurons, through an entire electro-magnetic framework in our body to our brain. The brain is then capable of recognizing simple potential differences into the colors, tastes, smells, visions, and feelings that we use to perceive the world in which we live. Incredible, isn’t it?

But after further thought my conclusion is that we really did get ripped off. I think that any living being whose life revolves around scheduling as much as humans (especially us here at Carleton) should really be allowed the sense of concrete time perception.

Honestly, think about it, we are so fixed to a system of time. We need to be somewhere at a certain time, we can only take up a certain amount of time on a specific task, we are limited so much by time, and when we lose track of time our whole day, and possibly even week can be entirely thrown off. Yet, internally we really have no way of esteeming the concrete passage of time (beyond days and nights with our circadian rhythm).

Considering the advantages internal time sensation would give me (especially with respect to how late in the term it is at Carleton and how time seems to be collapsing before my eyes), led me to wondering what time must really be and why evolution is incapable of providing me with this.

Ultimately I think the fact that we can’t program our brains to automatically process the passage of the time is due to the fact that time, as we have created it (hours, minutes, seconds) is too contrived. Our bodies do technically keep track of the passage of days and nights with sleep cycles, because this is a natural phenomenon. But hours, minutes, seconds and the whole host of systems they create – meeting times, mile times, cooking times- things we use to coordinate our daily lives are contrived by us. The problem with this, is that evolution, as it has matured thus far, is an entirely natural process, so has no way of comprehending the stress this contrived system places on us.

So alas, until evolution can come up with a way to provide me with an internal watch (which I’m picturing as a tiny chromium oscillation cell, hopefully in my right foot- doesn’t that sound cool?) I suppose I have a pretty decent excuse for occasional tardiness.


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