Category Archives: Sensory Systems

December 20

A Pirate’s Life is NOT for Me: A Deep Dive into Motion Sickness

A few months ago, I spent three and a half anxious hours on a rickety motorboat on western Tanzania’s Lake Tanganyika. The cause of my anxiety was not the fact that we were floating over the second deepest freshwater lake in the world in a boat that had already begun to take in some water […]

August 02

Snake Eyes: The Fear That Built Your Brain

Indiana Jones is a quintessential American hero, his fedora, satchel, and whip instantly recognizable around the world. He lives a double life, a scholarly professor of anthropology in public and a globetrotting treasure hunter in private. He defeats the Nazis and always gets the girl, displaying daring and fearlessness, with one notable exception. He has […]

September 21

Scratch that itch

[En español] One of the greatest pleasures in life is to scratch an itch – in both the real and figurative sense. Although scratching an itch provides immediate (albeit temporary) relief, it may actually trigger the mechanism that makes us itch. So the more we scratch, the itchier we get, turning the short-lived pleasure into a […]

July 20

Genomes, Circuits, and the Roundworm: C. Elegans as a Model Organism

A nematode can do much to help our understanding of human biology.

May 11

Identity Crisis

Who are you? How do you know? I’ve been thinking a lot about identity this week. It all started when I received a letter from the IRS that began “Dear TAXPAYER” and essentially asked, “Are you who you say you are?” (Yes, it’s me! Please send me my tax refund!) To validate my identity, I […]

May 05

Hello Darkness My Old Friend: How Echolocation Lets Bats Rule the Night

When I asked my boyfriend, a 15-year-old stuck in 28-year-old’s body, who would win in a battle between Batman and Superman in anticipation of the now-in-theaters “smash-flop” blockbuster, he responded, “Obviously Superman with his powers of x-ray vision and superhuman strength.  Batman is just a human with fancy technology.”  Such gadgets as a tape erasing […]

March 17

We Are All Actually in the Matrix

I’m not kidding: you, me, and everyone else are actually in the matrix. But it’s not quite the same matrix as in the movie “The Matrix.” We are (probably) not being grown and harvested by robots who (somewhat inexplicably) have chosen to use us as a power source.

No, I’m talking about your brain. Your brain is your own personal matrix. It enables your consciousness, your sensations, your positive and negative feelings.

It lies to you. All the time.

Let me show you.

February 11

Through the Nostril Gates to the Past

[En Español] My very first childhood memory, as much as I can tell, is one of sour feet. It happened during one of the mandatory nap sessions in kindergarten, where everyone slept on little mats barely above the floor. Being inexplicably awake on my side, unaware of the caretaker’s silent patrol behind me, I made […]

September 17

Singing in the [B]rain

Music has always wielded a disconcerting power over me. In times of overwhelming emotions, listening to a sad song or playing Chopin’s Nocturne in E-flat on the piano has propelled me into cathartic fits of sobbing. Songs with escalating intensity and complexity (such as San Fermin’s Parasites) have made me feel as if a wave […]

April 09

You Do Have a Sixth Sense – and More!

Ever wish you had more than just five senses? Sure, it’s cool to see, hear, touch, smell, and taste the world, but wouldn’t it be great to be able to sense other things? Perhaps you would prefer X-ray vision, telepathy, the ability to tell the future, or maybe you want to see dead people (or […]