28 December 2007

If everyone could see the things that I hear

But the eye is irreducibly complex!!!!

The tongue, an organ of taste and touch, may seem like an unlikely substitute for the eyes. After all, it's usually hidden inside the mouth, insensitive to light, and not connected to optic nerves. However, a growing body of research indicates that the tongue may in fact be the second-best place on the body for receiving visual information from the world and transmitting it to the brain.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-­Madison are developing this tongue-stimulating system, which translates images detected by a camera into a pattern of electric pulses that trigger touch receptors. The scientists say that volunteers testing the prototype soon lose awareness of on-the-tongue sensations. They then perceive the stimulation as shapes and features in space. Their tongue becomes a surrogate eye.
Don't worry. I'm sure the Creationistas will come up with some way of pooh-poohing this research. It's all in Gawd's plan or something.

Tangentially (and mostly because I love this song,) Sean A. Day's got a link to The Bobs' "Synaesthesia". Enjoy.

via Freakonomics