There's no denying that fatty food is goddamn near irresistible. And while today this might be largely seen as a weakness that's causing humans to gradually evolve into a race of helpless rolling blob-monsters, for much of the human timeline it made perfect sense: When food is scarce, fattier food means more calories, and more calories means a better chance of preventing nature from starving your hunting, gathering ass to death.
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You've come a long way, baby!
While the obvious way to detect whether or not a food has a high fat content is to taste it and then wait patiently in front of a mirror for its waist-embiggening effects to kick in, scientists have recently discovered that we possess another, much more subtle ability to detect which foods have a higher calorie count. Researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center conducted several experiments in which they had participants -- some from Philadelphia, others from the Netherlands -- smell glasses of milk, each of which had a small variance in its fat content. Sure enough, participants were able to detect which milk was fattier just by its smell.
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We typically just go by color.
To make sure this was an innate ability, researchers compared the results of the Americans versus the Dutch (whose diets contain way more milk than ours) and also analyzed the results against the BMIs of the participants to see if the fatter participants (read "the Americans") were better equipped to smell the fattiness of their foods. What they found was that, regardless of national dietary preferences or waist size, participants were equally equipped to smell fat content across the board.
Researchers are hopeful that this discovery will lead to further study into how people can use their built-in fat-sensing sixth sense to improve their diet by regulating their fat intake. Unfortunately, that will presumably also require the invention of some type of A Clockwork Orange-style brainwashing device to rewire that pesky "fat = delicious" connection that evolution has soldered somewhere deep within our grey matter.
Imagine you were bitten by a radioactive animal of some kind and the only superpower you wound up with was a superhuman sense of touch. Imagine your nerves became so sensitive that you could feel something as tiny as a virus. Sure, you wouldn't be able to fight crime with it, unless it was committed by evil nanobots or something, but it'd still be amazing, right? Well, congratulations -- you can already do it.
Might we suggest "No crime is too small!" as your heroic battle cry?
It turns out that our sense of touch -- mainly in our fingers -- is so well adapted to feeling the teensiest nuances that we can detect bumps on the surface of an object at a nano-level. Researchers at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology conducted an experiment in which blindfolded participants were asked to get all touchy-feely with 16 different polymer surfaces, ranging from silky smooth to somewhat wrinkly. But here's the catch: These "wrinkles" were minuscule -- they could be measured only in terms of nanometers and micrometers.
What they found was that the participants "could distinguish a surface which had a 13-nanometer average amplitude from a smooth surface." Thirteen freaking nanometers. A single rhinovirus, that microscopic asshole that causes the common cold, is bigger than that.
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Though by virus standards, it's a bit of a chunker.
So what does this mean to you? Well, it means how things feel in your hand has way more impact than what anyone thought -- two different surfaces manufactured to be "smooth" but with different tiny imperfections, feel nothing alike to your fingers. This discovery will lead to manufacturers being better equipped to sell you stuff. Yay!
See, when faced with two seemingly identical products, you're going to choose the smoother one -- even if it's only smoother on a nearly subconscious level. So while the ability to feel, say, the creeping heat of an approaching fire or the teensy tickle of poisonous ants crawling up your ass crack may have gotten us humans to where we are today, the ability for Apple to sell you a smoother iPhone is what's going to take us into the future.
The third part of XJ's epic science-fiction novel is out now on Amazon. The first $0.99 novella can be found here, with Part 2 out here. Or leave a review and get a free copy! Poke him on Twitter and follow him on Facebook.
Related Reading: What, those aren't enough super powers for you? Click here to learn how to build a memory palace. And hey, did you know your morning coffee was giving you super-powers? This all sounds a lot more awesome when you don't know about these real people with unique powers.