Seeing With Your Tongue and Listening to Colour

By Anupum Pant

I’m always fascinated when I see one sense organ do the work of some other sense organ. Like breathing from your eyes ( not really) or seeing with your ears (really) listening to colours etc…

not available in your country

Solving The Technical Problem (Not available in your country): Today, I stumbled upon a video whose title was “Blind Learn To See With Tongue“. It was uploaded on YouTube by CBS – an American TV network. The sad part is that they had tweaked the videos settings which did not allow me to watch it. It wasn’t available in India.

Whenever someone says I can’t do something, I’m almost always prepared for it. This time, I had this extension installed on Chrome called ZenMate. It’s perfectly legal (available on chrome store) and works very smoothly. It allows you to surf the internet with total control. With it installed, you can totally forget about your physical location and fool the websites which place a location restriction for access, like Spotify and Youtube’s “not available in your location” videos. I haven’t tried other things but it should allow Indians to access stuff from websites like Hulu, Pandora and Netflix. (Even if it may seem out of place, I wasn’t paid by ZenMate to write this. I really recommend it.)

The Customary David Eagleman talk

Now, whenever I come across something that has to do with seeing things with an organ that is not really meant for seeing, I remember this very-old TED talk by David Eagleman. And I like to attach it to my blog because I can’t really explain this amazing ability of the Human brain as well as he does. He basically segues his talk to discuss how brain can learn to interpret various kinds of signals to produce an image. So, here it goes. Watch it and read on…

Since it is clear that seeing is the ability of the brain, not eyes, we can comfortably move on to see how you could even see with your tongue – Tasting the light.

Seeing with the Tongue

A device called BrainPort can help you do that. The contraption consists of a camera that sits on your forehead and sends information to a small computer. The information is processed, converted into electrical pulses, and then sent to an array of electrodes touching your tongue. The brain processes these signals and converts them into an image.

At first, of course the brain doesn’t know the trick to process visual signal from the tongue, but it learns. Gradually the device becomes a part of your body and you start seeing with your tongue! Just like Neil Harbisson can listen to colour. In fact, he can see more colours than our eyes can see because the technology allows him. He can see infrared and ultraviolet too!

Listening to Colour – TED talk

Hit like if you learnt something from this article.

The Rainbow Coloured Lake – Grand Prismatic Spring

By Anupum Pant

Of all the “cool” places we have here on earth, lakes and other water bodies fascinate me the most. This is probably the reason I keep stumbling upon some of the most amazing lakes over and over. In the past I’ve written about the Taal lake and the bleeding lake of Antarctica. I have several others in mind, but this is the one I’ve picked for today, and it isn’t “cool” – The rainbow coloured lake.

Lying amidst the colourful geysers and hot springs of Yellowstone National park, located in the state of Wyoming, is a lake where you’ll see colours ranging from brilliant yellow, orange, red, green and of course blue. Here is what it looks like…

The lake is called the grand prismatic spring and it is the largest hot spring in the US. The water there is hot enough to burn you. And yet…

The hot spring, is home to different kinds of tiny living creatures. Organisms called thermophiles have learnt to thrive in the abnormally hot place. In fact, these creatures depend so much on the heat that they can’t live away from the hot water.

What makes it coloured?

The lake is coloured, yes. But what causes these bright vivid colours? Is it because there is something in the air around it, or is it due to a industrial chemicals leaking into the lake, or is it due to these organisms? Whatever causes the lake to appear coloured, that too colours appearing in the same order like they would be seen on a rainbow, I wanted to know.

Turns out, it isn’t just the lake that is coloured. The steam that arises from the hot water comes in different colours too!

The orange and other non-green/blue colours which appear there the most after blue are due to a multi-layered sheet of microorganisms that thrive in the lake. These are pigmented. The main pigment is chlorophyll (the same thing which helps the plants make food). But chlorophyll is green. So there are some other yellow, red and orange coloured pigments called Carotenoids, that protect the chlorophyll when the sunlight is bright enough to damage it.

The colour of the part of lake is a function of, amount of Carotenoids  present with chlorophyll. More the Carotenoid, more colours you’ll see. A greater ratio of cartenoids to protect the chlorophyll during summers is the reason why the lake appears not-so-coloured during winters and vividly coloured during the summers. So, it isn’t the variety of microorganisms or chemicals or atmospheric conditions that colour the lake, the colour is due to the different mix of chlorophyll and carotenoids at different patches of the lake at different times of the year.

The best time to visit this place would thus be the summer season!

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