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Otters Oddities

Illustration for article titled Otters Oddities

You smell like the color nine.


That.....uh....really didn't make any sense, did it? You can't smell colors, and colors aren't numbers.


Unless they are.

The nose is a very different thing in each and every creature out there. For example, that's a cat's nose. It picks up smells differently than a human nose. It's closer to a dogs nose. And a dogs nose is their primary sensory input device.


Like all living things, humans and dogs use all our senses. But in the case of humans, we value sight over smell. Dogs value smell over sight. For example, when we look at something, we see the full spectrum of color. We can pick out subtle differences in depth and shading because of it. Dogs can't. They don't see the full spectrum, so they don't see everything we do.

However, when I walk into a kitchen, I smell that someone is cooking soup. A dog walks in and smells that someone is boiling a liquid made from chicken bones that has salt, pepper, carrots, celery, onions, a little thyme, some that a dash of hot sauce? Oh, and that noodle has flour, whole wheat, I think, with some semolina thrown in.


We smell the product being cooked. A dog smells the ingredients.

To use an even cruder example, (pardon my distastefulness), we smell poop, a dog smells what was eaten to produce that poop.


A science teacher once explained it to me like this: humans smell in black and white while dogs smell in color.

At the time he used that analogy, I thought it was strange. The concept of smelling in color didn't make sense. But I was a sophomore in high school, and I was dumber than I am now. Because now, I know more.


And one of the mores I know is something called Synesthsia.

There are people out there who are different that you and me. We see color. Someone with synesthsia smells color. Or hears it. Or reads in it. Or they smell numbers. Or see colors as numbers.


Someone with synesthsia uses their senses in ways the average person doesn't. It's a neurological condition where the stimulation of one of the senses triggers an automatic response from a second sense. For example, when I smell freshly baked bread, someone with synesthsia would also smell bread, but they would also smell yellow, for example. And when they saw a taxi drive by, (provided it was the correct shade of yellow), they would smell bread.

There are many forms of synesthsia, and scientists don't have a clear understanding of them at all. But it's speculated that people who can easily understand a difficult concept have some form of it.


Personally, I understand time at a level most don't. But that's because I see time as a 3 dimensional object, not a straight line. So when I think about 1960 and 223 B.C.E., I can picture them as a 3D rendering and grasp how far apart they are. (this is one of the documented forms of synesthsia. The ability to see 1980 as farther away that 1990. However, the way I picture time is fairly complicated. I could try to explain it if anyone was interested)

Someone who is a prodigy most likely has some form of synesthsia without even knowing it. If you've ever asked someone how they do it, they will most likely tell you they don't know. They just can. And that's because of their brain relating something to more than one sense. Math for most people is visual. You have to see the numbers to figure them out. A prodigy can do the math in their head at speeds that amaze people. That's most likely because they are relating the numbers not only with sight, but with sound or smell as well.


But there are other forms of synesthsia as well. Have you ever had an emotional reaction to a sound? Like, a door slamming causes fear? That's a form of synesthsia. Or, watching someone touch something and you swear you can feel what they're touching? Again, a form of synesthsia.

Many people who experience it don't realize they are experiencing it because it's something they've always done. I was in my 30's before I realized my ability to comprehend time the way I do was a form of synesthsia. There is a chance some of you may have some form of synesthsia. Go study up on it. If you do, you can be as odd as me.

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