Human Echolocation: A Story of Hidden Senses


by Martin Clemens

How many senses do you have?  Five?  Sight, smell, touch, taste, hearing?  Sure, but what would you say if I told you that you have far more than just those five?  You might be thinking something like PSI or ESP or some kind of intangible mental power accounts for our sixth sense, and while I won’t deny that as a possibility, that isn’t what I’m talking about.

Your body is literally filled with sense organs.  Biological machines that each serve a purpose related to keeping you going strong, and making sure you know what’s happening around you.  I don’t mean for this to devolve into a refresher course on human physiology, but suffice it to say, we’re chock-full of little bits that work to tell us what’s going on inside and outside our bodies.

For example, if you close your eyes, can you still touch your finger to your nose? (Assuming you have both a finger and a nose)  This may be so simple that you don’t see how amazing it is right away, but…how do you know, with your eyes closed, where your nose is relative to your finger?

If you were a robot, that manoeuver wouldn’t be so simple to accomplish.  It would require precise programming detailing exactly where the nose is spatially, relative to the finger.  The robot would need to know how to get from point A to point B, and it would need to know exactly where and when to stop.

Well, you need to know all that too, and when your eyes are open, it’s easy enough to figure it all out just by noticing that your finger is on your hand, and your nose is, strangely enough, in the middle of your face.  From there, it’s just a simple matter of neural-muscular contractions and fine motor skills, and voila, you’ve introduced one of your digits to your honker.

But when your eyes are closed, it’s another matter entirely, and if you’ll indulge, it involves what sense exactly?  Spatial reasoning, of course.  You might argue that this isn’t a sense, and whichever one of us is right, we can hardly deny that some kind of sensory process is involved, one that isn’t listed in the classical five.

Officially, there is no official count for how many senses we actually have.  It ranges between a few dozen to nearly 100, depending on who you ask, and some of the given senses are easier to quantify and understand than others.

One sense not listed in the classic five, but that is difficult to deny, is Temporal Perception.  That is your innate ability to perceive the passage of time.  Now, no one is saying that you’re particularly accurate in your ability to tell time.  Einstein’s relativity amply demonstrates that your experience of time is hopelessly dependent on your conscious attention and your physical condition at the…time.  But there’s more than one way to think about Temporal Perception…






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