When we reach the age of 2, we start to have a few questions about our bodies. At first they're simple. "Will that toy fit into the wet hole in the middle of my face?" But as we mature, the questions become more complex and too numerous for any reasonable human being to answer. It's no coincidence that around this time, our parents ship us off to school, where someone is paid to give us answers.
Unfortunately, many of the answers you get there are lies that seem specifically designed to make the world around you seem boring. Because how else are they going to get you to stop asking so many damn questions? For instance, you probably still believe ...
Sight, smell, touch, taste, hearing. Them there's your five senses. Since kindergarten, you've probably been told that anyone who thinks she has a sixth sense is either a television psychic or M. Night Shyamalan. This original classification is widely attributed to Aristotle, so if you try to argue that there are more than five, you're basically arguing with the guy who invented being smart.
And wannabe intellectuals have rocked the comb forward/beard combo ever since.
Scientists still aren't quite sure of exactly how many senses you have, or what even constitutes a sense, but you'd be hard-pressed to find one who believes you have five. Depending on how they count them, they usually wind up with something like 14 to 20. The five you learned about in school were just the five most evident senses, aka the boring ones you could have figured out for your own damn self. The rest are far more interesting.
Pictured: #19, smision.
The Harvard School of Medicine lists six extra ones that are pretty hard to argue against. Close your eyes, then touch your nose with your index finger. How did you know which one was your index finger without looking at it? How did you know where your nose was? Did you smell your finger to your nose? Did your sense of touch somehow tell you what the air molecules you encounter along the way to your nose feel like? Nah, that's proprioception, your body's awareness of where it is in relation to itself.
Oh, yeah. We just dropped the H-bomb on you.
Maybe the most interesting one they left out is your sense of timing, which might seem like it's only a sense in the way that fashion is a sense. But leading neurologists like David Eagleman think it's the most important of all the senses, since it's the thread that ties the rest of them together. An apple is just a series of different sensations without your sense of time telling you they're all happening at the same moment. Still not convinced? Try staring at a white wall in a totally silent room. Your sense of time tells you how much of your life has been wasted because you didn't take us at our word.
Good on you, fella.
It's also worth noting that this sense your kindergarten teacher failed to mention can operate like a freaking superpower. For instance, if you're walking in the woods and a bear growls in the bushes behind you and to your left, the bear's growl hits your left ear a millionth of a second before it hits your right. Your sense of time is able to pick up on that infinitesimal difference and allows you to perfectly triangulate the bear's location behind you.
If you were only relying on your sense of hearing, you would only know that the bear is somewhere on the left side of your body. Your ears don't swivel around like a dog's, so you would have to turn and use your eyes to pinpoint the bear. A blur of brown and black fur would be the last sight you ever saw.
Two members of our PR team died getting this photograph. Honor their sacrifice by chuckling dutifully.
One of the first things many of us learned in science class was that the tongue is organized like a factory floor plan, with each region assigned responsibility for its own highly specialized tasks:
The Brew Samurai
The empty middle is where you taste irony and things that are so close you can taste them.
If you spent your childhood shotgunning Pixy Stix like the rest of us, you may have noticed that you could taste sugar even when it was bypassing the tip of your tongue at 70 mph. You were left to conclude that your teachers were liars or that there was something hideously wrong with you, depending on whether you were raised Catholic.
Your teachers were probably just being fed the same line of bullshit that's been passed from biology class to biology class for decades, and it's totally false. As with the myth that spinach is rich in iron, this one started with a mistranslation of a century-old German study (maybe stop relying on those, science). In 1901, German scientist D.P. Hanig conducted a taste test and found that some volunteers experienced certain flavors more intensely in certain regions of the tongue. Forty years later, a Harvard academic appropriately named Dr. Boring mistranslated the results of the German survey, mistaking a vague tendency among a bunch of Germans (who were probably taste-testing four different varieties of sauerkraut) for the precision workflow chart you see in the tongue map.
Our research for this article has informed us of the existence of sauerkraut pie. Will you stop at nothing, Germany?
Researchers have known for years that all areas in the tongue are about equally good at detecting different flavors. It's not an evenly distributed democracy of taste buds, but every tongue has different patterns of strength and weakness. Your tongue map is like your mouth's fingerprint, if the pattern on your fingerprint determines whether or not you like Brussels sprouts. Each of our "tongue maps" will detect different tastes, sometimes from the same meal. Also, far from being relegated to specific locations on the tongue, your taste buds go all the way down your throat into your digestive system. When you've eaten some bad food, the ones in your stomach warn your gag reflex that if it doesn't evacuate the building, the shit's about to hit the fan (and everything else within three square blocks).
"Well played, Taco Bell."
The taste map has hung around 30 years after it was officially debunked even though it's less interesting than the reality because teachers need cool-looking color-coded maps to fill out science books, and fat-cat wineglass makers like to pretend you need a golf bag's worth of specialized wineglasses to direct different types of wine to the best possible place on the tongue.
We prefer to chug it out of a bag.
This is one of the first, and for those of us who don't go into medicine, only pieces of anatomy we learn. The blue veins you see on white people's arms look that way because they are carrying deoxygenated blood away from the heart. This is your body's helpful way of color-coding which direction everything is moving for biology textbooks. Blood is red when it has oxygen but blue when it lacks it. And you never bleed blue because blood turns back to red thanks to the oxygen in the air. You've seen even more evidence of it, either in movies or firsthand if you're a homicidal maniac: People who hold their breath or get choked turn a purplish blue before passing out. Because they're not getting any O2! Case. Closed.
"Does anybody know mouth-to-mouth?! These boys need serious help over here!"
When it comes to the color of your blood vessels, your eyes can, and frequently do, deceive the shit out of you. Usually, veins are close to the surface of the skin, and they're the ones that carry oxygenless blood. That means it's true that those blue vessels you're seeing carry blood without oxygen, but the blood itself is not blue. Even the vein itself isn't blue. It primarily looks blue because of the way light reflects off it. The vessels carrying blood toward the heart and the blood they carry are both actually darker (also known as even more) red.
Blood with oxygen on left, without oxygen on right.
They appear blue on white people because of the way light passes through their skin. In typical white-person fashion, whoever came up with this myth looked down at his arm and assumed that the little blue lines running up and down his arms must actually be blue, failing to notice that different colors of skin reflect different light waves, making the veins look anywhere from green to pink when viewed through other colors of skin.
Stuff White People Like: Making ridiculous generalizations about blood.
The blue appearance doesn't stop blood from being red, just like the color of the sky doesn't make outer space Carolina blue.