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Hacking Our Five Senses and Building New Ones

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 3 years ago | from the where-is-my-x-ray-vision dept.

Biotech 290

ryanguill writes "Wired has an article about expanding your five (maybe six) senses to allow you to sense other things such as direction. It also talks about hijacking other senses to compensate for missing senses, such as using electrodes in your mouth to compensate for lack of eyesight. Another example is a subject wearing a belt with 13 vibrating pads. The pad pointing north would vibrate giving you a sense of direction no matter your orientation: '"It was slightly strange at first," Wächter says, "though on the bike, it was great." He started to become more aware of the peregrinations he had to make while trying to reach a destination. "I finally understood just how much roads actually wind," he says. He learned to deal with the stares he got in the library, his belt humming like a distant chain saw. Deep into the experiment, Wächter says, "I suddenly realized that my perception had shifted. I had some kind of internal map of the city in my head. I could always find my way home. Eventually, I felt I couldn't get lost, even in a completely new place."'"

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290 comments

Chose a sense (4, Interesting)

moniker127 (1290002) | more than 3 years ago | (#28001467)

I chose emf detection. That would be handy.

Re:Chose a sense (3, Interesting)

bcmm (768152) | more than 3 years ago | (#28001521)

There was someone a couple of years back who implanted tiny magnets in his fingers. He said he could feel vibration from alternating fields.

Re:Chose a sense (2, Interesting)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | more than 3 years ago | (#28001795)

Several people have done this (google pulls up feelingwaves.blogspot.com/ ). Apparently super gluing to your fingers also works, albeit less effectively.

Re:Chose a sense (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#28001905)

The advantage of gluing is that you don't have to dig the disintegrated fragments of magnet out of your fingertip when they eventually start to corrode.

Re:Chose a sense (2, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002667)

The glove method is even safer, more quickly reversible, and arguably cheaper, since you don't need glue and probably already own gloves.

Can either use little magnets stuffed in the pointer fingertip of the gloves, or big ole hard drive magnets kind of held in the palm. Or both, I suppose, but be careful they don't stick together.

I've tried this and it works quite well until your hands sweat too much from the gloves being too warm inside the house. Old fashioned linear power supplies are much more entertaining than modern switchers. It's pretty strange knowing by touch if a material is ferromagnetic, because it's "sticky". I was not able to move my hands fast enough / use strong enough magnets to experience magnetic braking when waved over conductive surfaces, although I suppose it should be possible with stronger magnets. Tiny bits of magnetic junk built up on the gloves as I pawed everything... Best not touch CDs/DVDs when covered with magnetically attached iron shrapnel. In summary, it was a fun, cheap, and respectible way to entertain myself for about an hour.

Re:Chose a sense (4, Informative)

EdZ (755139) | more than 3 years ago | (#28001885)

Quite a few people have done it since. Current experimentation is with finding a method of encapsulating the magnets that will not breakdown inside the body. Silicon dipping leaves thin spots at the corners of the magnet, and no company will use PVD coating on small sample quantities of magnets

Diamond via CVD would be my choice (1)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002655)

If I had a big bankroll, I'd try coating with diamond using CVD, instead. Anyone know how thick a coating of diamond is necessary to get the appropriate level of chemical intertness?

Re:Chose a sense (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002049)

That would be pretty cool if you could do it with nonferrous electromagnets. Implanting magnets or indeed anything magnetically attracted in your skin is fucking stupid. They could be powered by glucose (too lazy to link) and be wrapped right around a nerve fiber or something so they could be truly minuscule and yet still detectable.

Re:Chose a sense (5, Funny)

Phasma Felis (582975) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002635)

That would be pretty cool if you could do it with nonferrous electromagnets. Implanting magnets or indeed anything magnetically attracted in your skin is fucking stupid.

Yeah, you'd better hope you never need an MRI for anything.

I think they should make 'em modular, myself. Just flip up your fingernail to access the space. If you're not using them for magnets, you could transport secret messages, say, or extra Tabasco for your lunch. Don't see any way for that to go wrong!

Re:Chose a sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28002463)

I remember reading that article. It sounded totally awesome.

Re:Chose a sense (4, Funny)

Kagura (843695) | more than 3 years ago | (#28001721)

I can already sense many EM waves, from deep infrared to bright purple.

Re:Chose a sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28001799)

I can already sense many EM waves, from deep infrared to bright purple.

Purple [wikipedia.org]... really? I don't think you have it quite right.

Re:Chose a sense (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002209)

Perhaps he means octarine.

Nah, just varm (1)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002579)

Let me guess where that is from... am I getting varm?

(I'm not even sure whether even you understand this reply, never mind the average Slashdotter. Anyway: Brunner more or less used that storyline twice, or even maybe three times with slight variations. In a different version, the color was called "varm", instead.)

Re:Chose a sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28002375)

I can do much better... all the way until violet!

Slashporn (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28001503)

such as using electrodes in your mouth to compensate for lack of eyesight. Another example is a subject wearing a belt with 13 vibrating pads.

Sounds like a good BDSM porno. The electrodes go well with the ball and chain and magic wand.

Re:Slashporn (4, Funny)

koutbo6 (1134545) | more than 3 years ago | (#28001717)

Instead of rushing to get a FP anonymously and making my day, I bet the guy next to me that we will get a porn related comment within the next 10 minutes.
Needless to say, I won my bet from the 2nd post!

Re:Slashporn (2, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002253)

Sounds like a good BDSM porno. The electrodes go well with the ball and chain and magic wand.

I'm glad that I wasn't the only one to notice this BDSM trend today on Slashdot.

I was beginning to think that I should cut back on my DMT consumption.

Next we might see a post about advertising these electrode ball and chain magic wand services on Craigslist.

I Did Acid Saturday Night (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28001527)

My Girlfriend and I dropped acid Saturday night.

It was pretty cool.

Re:I Did Acid Saturday Night (1, Funny)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002043)

My boyfriend and I dropped base last saturday morning, it was pretty warm.

Re:I Did Acid Saturday Night (2, Funny)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002151)

My boyfriend and I dropped base last saturday morning, it was pretty warm.

Really... Don't do everything they tell you in music...

"Let the base drop!"

Re:I Did Acid Saturday Night (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28002541)

My domestic partner and I BASE jumped last Saturday morning.

We were pretty high.

That's easy (5, Funny)

SoundGuyNoise (864550) | more than 3 years ago | (#28001549)

Smission. I wouldn't want to use taste to compensate for vision. Have you licked a Buick lately? Not as sweet as they were in the 50s.

Re:That's easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28001633)

God oh God, why did I burn my mod points already.

Thank you - that really made me laugh :-)

Re:That's easy (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002445)

Have you licked a Buick lately? Not as sweet as they were in the 50s.

Uh, thats the anti-freeze. The old glycol was terribly toxic and terribly sweet tasting. I am told the new dexcool stuff does not taste sweet.

electrodes (5, Funny)

snarkh (118018) | more than 3 years ago | (#28001551)

It also talks about hijacking other senses to compensate for missing senses, such as using electrodes in your mouth to compensate for lack of eyesight.

They used to do it in Guantanamo.

Re:electrodes (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 3 years ago | (#28001807)

Not sure how the electrodes got into your mouth. I seem recall that the electrodes were hooked to genitalia.

Re:electrodes (5, Funny)

FredFredrickson (1177871) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002069)

Not sure how the electrodes got into your mouth. I seem recall that the electrodes were hooked to genitalia.

Oh, I think you figured it out.

Re:electrodes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28002409)

It also talks about hijacking other senses to compensate for missing senses, such as using electrodes in your mouth to compensate for lack of eyesight.

I read a story in the last couple years where a plastic set of electrodes was placed on the tongue of SCUBA divers and allowed the divers to sense their surroundings with their tongues.

so its not just for 'teh lulz'

Zen for birds. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28001619)

"Deep into the experiment, WÃchter says, "I suddenly realized that my perception had shifted. I had some kind of internal map of the city in my head. I could always find my way home. Eventually, I felt I couldn't get lost, even in a completely new place.""""

Now you know how birds feel.

Re:Zen for birds. (5, Interesting)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 3 years ago | (#28001875)

"Deep into the experiment, WÃchter says, "I suddenly realized that my perception had shifted. I had some kind of internal map of the city in my head. I could always find my way home. Eventually, I felt I couldn't get lost, even in a completely new place.""""

Now you know how birds feel.

It's not just how birds feel. People who spend the majority of their time outdoors, with the ability to see the sun, get the same feeling. Citydwellers have the unfortunate circumstance of generally not being able to judge direction by the location of the sun; people in rural areas don't have this problem.

I grew up in a rural area, but close to the ever-encroaching burbs. I spent most of my time outside (I know, anathema to most slashdotters)... and to this day I subconsciously know what way is north, no matter where I am... as long as I've gotten glimpse of the sun in the morning or night at some time from that location. This is why I never get lost outside (though dealing with indirect roads can make it umm, interesting getting to where I want to go.

If I had some kind of input for direction when inside, I'm pretty sure I'd have a good bump of direction inside as well... but since I don't, I find extensive underground systems annoying (like Grand Central Station in Manhattan).

IOW, the guy who wore the vibrating belt added a different sensory input. Humans already have the capacity for "mapmaking", it's not limited to birds. Ask any orienteer. We just have little reason to exercise it in today's world.

Re:Zen for birds. (1)

relguj9 (1313593) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002163)

We just have little reason to exercise it in today's world.

Exactly, my iPhone kicks your belt's ass.

Re:Zen for birds. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28002187)

of course, if you live in a city were the streets are built in a NEWS grid, then you gain this too if you are observant enough.

Hmm (5, Funny)

shellster_dude (1261444) | more than 3 years ago | (#28001645)

I am pretty sure that the first thought, of the mother and kids in the library, when they saw/heard your pants vibrating, did not involve your enhanced sense of direction.

Re:Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28002511)

I disagree. I'm pretty sure they realised he was pointing North.

Been there, done that (1, Offtopic)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 3 years ago | (#28001647)

There are those of us who have an innate ability to navigate in any environment with little or no aid. I joke with people, who are completely flumoxed as to where they are and in which direction they should go, that they shouldn't worry. My internal GPS knows where we're at. Spacial orientation has just been one of those things I have.

Whether the grid pattern of Manhattan, the non-grid streets of Lower Manhattan or the uniquely French design of the maze known as Washington, D.C., for whatever reason, I can get to where I'm going almost every time without error.

In fairness, I must say that part of this ability is my being able to look at map and then, without looking at it again, orient myself on where I need to go. This applies even if I have to take a detour. Once I know where I'm at, I can get to any point I need.

Would this ability hold up in the Arctic north where there are no landmarks? Maybe, maybe not. But since I'm not one prone to visit cold climates, the world may never know (my apologies to the Tootsie Pop people).

Re:Been there, done that (3, Interesting)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002037)

IMO, that's a learned ability. I have the same knack, and I attribute it to a rural upbringing where I schlepped on foot or on a bike a lot. Did you also grow up dependent on exertion for getting around (via foot or on bike)?

I use landmarks to determine progress, but my location, the route, and the destination are mapped in my head. If the map is there, I can easily recalculate my route if there are detours or other unexpected changes to the route.

Also, I always know (unless in a maze of twisty passages all alike) my orientation -- whenever I'm new to a place, I'm always looking for the sun to verify, until it becomes second nature. I do this subconsciously -- my wife comments on it whenever we're on a road trip, which is the only reason I noticed.

Re:Been there, done that (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002285)

Did you also grow up dependent on exertion for getting around (via foot or on bike)?

Yup. Rode my bike everywhere when I was younger. I also walked down to the local forests/clumps of trees and wandered about without issue.

I can't say I look at the sun when out and about, it's more that since I know what direction I'm heading, I know which way to turn. This works even inside buildings.

As far as landmarks are concerned, that is a double-edge sword. I've often said that I rely on landmarks to get to places so if a building is torn down in the meantime, I might be up the creek. :) However, the one time I needed a landmark was when I was driving to Edgewater, NJ to the Mitsuwa Marketplace. I hadn't been there in nearly a decade and I was a passenger at the time. All I could remember is it was on the road closest to the Hudson and that there were oil tanks across the street. My internal GPS got me there and yes, the oil tanks were still there.

Whether it's learned or innate, it serves me well. When people around me are confused, I simply tell them to follow me and miraculously we find our way out.

And yes, I did see your posting further down the page from mine with similar comments.

Re:Been there, done that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28002097)

Whether the grid pattern of Manhattan, the non-grid streets of Lower Manhattan or the uniquely French design of the maze known as Washington, D.C., for whatever reason, I can get to where I'm going almost every time without error.

Those are all pretty trivial.
Now if you manage what you claim in a place like Boston, then I might be impressed.

Re:Been there, done that (1)

SighKoPath (956085) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002349)

Eh, I can do it just fine in Boston. It's easiest on foot or bike here, because then there's no need to worry about all the damn one-way streets. I can still manage just fine in a car, though. My friends generally wonder how I manage to do it, and I always tell them it's the map in my head. Going anywhere once is enough for me to be reliably able to get to anywhere else in the area I've already been. Glancing at a map is enough for me to be able to get anywhere new. I may not take the most optimal route, but I never get lost.

Like one of the previous posters, I grew up relying on my feet and a bike for most transportation, but in a suburban environment.

I still want one of those compass belts.

Compass belt (5, Insightful)

evanbd (210358) | more than 3 years ago | (#28001655)

I built one of the compass belts. You don't need 13 motors. Four is plenty. Of course, you want finer resolution than just the four cardinal directions -- so you have the intensity of the vibration vary. If you make the strength of vibration of the motor vary sinusoidally with the angle, so that when a particular motor is pointing directly north it vibrates at full strength, and when directly south not at all, you'll get a very smooth response. You can easily resolve direction to 10-15 degrees precision with just four motors, and the analog response is less distracting than having motors suddenly turn on and off.

You can also do the analog response without a microprocessor -- the two-axis electronic compass sensors are really two sensors, each sensing the component of the field along their sensitive axis, which gives precisely the sin(theta) response curve you want. The microprocessor gets replaced by a couple op amps, and you cut the motor count dramatically, which saves a fair bit on the cost.

Power required to run the vibrator motors is noticeable. I get about 12-14 hours battery life from 4x NiMH AA cells. The next version will improve that a bit (PWM control instead of linear for the motors); the prototype was designed with circuit simplicity as the primary goal.

I don't have a complete schematic or parts list online; circuit design was done on paper and in my head while soldering it together. You can find a description and pictures here [sf0.org].

Re:Compass belt (5, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002011)

It would make a lot more sense to use piezos than vibrators. They also don't need to run constantly. I'm told that at high frequencies the piezo vibration resembles pressure more than vibration, but have no personal experience.

Re:Compass belt (4, Interesting)

evanbd (210358) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002115)

I'll look into piezos. I've been meaning to build an updated version for a while now. Also, they *do* need to run constantly. How would it know when to run and when not to? With it constantly on, your brain tunes it out at a conscious level and you stop noticing it, but you still know what direction North is. Having it turn on or off would be distracting.

Re:Compass belt (2, Interesting)

robably (1044462) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002051)

I wouldn't want a belt, but a piezoelectric armband might be less conspicuous and use less power. I can see these being built in to watch straps, too - your arm does change orientation much more often than your torso, which is presumably why they went with a belt, but combined with an accelerometer it wouldn't matter whether your arm was pointing up or down as the device could compensate.

Re:Compass belt (1)

evanbd (210358) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002189)

A proper version of the belt (surface mount components on a custom PCB, to reduce size) would be fairly inconspicuous. The batteries are the bulkiest component at that point, and even those aren't too large. The motors could be attached to a normal leather belt, and the remainder would be about the same size as a cell phone or pager, and comparably inconspicuous.

Reduced power would be a big improvement (lighter batteries and longer runtime would both be good). Do you have a suggested part for the piezo units?

Re:Compass belt (1)

robably (1044462) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002381)

Do you have a suggested part for the piezo units?

No, wouldn't know where to start looking. The closest I've used are electromagnetic relays (out of washing machines).
Maybe small locking sprung relays? Power pulls it inwards to touch your skin, it locks, when the direction changes the lock is released and the spring pulls it back and another relay is triggered. Power (for the relay) is only needed when you change direction. I've never seen relays that small, though. Ideally you'd want a watch strap with rubber dimples on the inside that raise and lower.

Thinking about it - I bet with piezos on a wristband you would be able to use it with them only being triggered when the direction changes and not constantly buzzing. To trigger it and sense north you just twist your wrist. Worth a shot to see if it would work.

The idea of using a belt just doesn't sit right with me - unless it's actually touching your skin it seems awfully wasteful of power. I'd go smaller.

Re:Compass belt (1)

robably (1044462) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002599)

surface mount components on a custom PCB, to reduce size

Or an iPhone app plus an armband connected by a wire or bluetooth. There's a million dollar idea for you.

Radio would be fun to see (5, Interesting)

praetorblue (1395623) | more than 3 years ago | (#28001657)

It'd be fascinating to see radio waves, overlaid on your normal vision.

Any radio science buffs have ideas of what it would look like?

I'm guessing it'd be a constant semi-transparent haze. But since radio waves are directional, and some are limited by varying altitudes, I'd imagine there must be some gradation you could perceive.

Re:Radio would be fun to see (3, Informative)

Alarindris (1253418) | more than 3 years ago | (#28001725)

You wouldn't likely see anything at all. When you see light, you don't see the actual beams, you see what is reflected off of objects. With radio passing through just about everything, you probably couldn't see anything.

Re:Radio would be fun to see (4, Insightful)

Aqualung812 (959532) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002085)

You can still see light sources. I would assume you'd be see every radio source, from your cell phone to your speakers.

Re:Radio would be fun to see (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28002105)

I highly suggest you go look directly at the sun and see just how not seeing beams of light hurts.

Re:Radio would be fun to see (2, Informative)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002145)

When you see light, you most assuredly do 'see' the actual beams, as they bounce off objects. That is the entire mechanic.

As such, if you were to come up with a magical "radio wave" detector that worked just as eyes do, you'd see areas in your FOV which were 'brighter' as radio waves bounced off them or something actually emitted them (similar to a light bulb).

And as a resident of an urban environment that has to deal with bounced TV signals screwing up my reception all the time, I can assure you that while the waves pass through alot, there is also alot they don't quite make it through. And given our modern society is chock full of radio transmiters (from RFID to cell phones to unintentional items such as computer equipment) you shouldn't have a problem with 'illumination'.

The real question would be: how would you map the various radio wave lengths to what your eyes would actually be able to see? Visible light is a very small portion of the EM spectrum.

Re:Radio would be fun to see (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002497)

The real question would be: how would you map the various radio wave lengths to what your eyes would actually be able to see?

The best solution would be to bypass your eyes entirely and simply map the thing directly to your vision cortex. Use a phased array of implanted wires to get 360 degree detection, combine with a microprocessor to translate the info into amplitude and frequency in every direction, and this data in paired cables into the brain. Sure, it would be an utter mess at first, but after a few weeks you should be able to make sense of it.

Re:Radio would be fun to see (1)

UncleTogie (1004853) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002183)

You wouldn't likely see anything at all. When you see light, you don't see the actual beams, you see what is reflected off of objects. With radio passing through just about everything, you probably couldn't see anything.

Silly question: What am I seeing, then, when I look at a clear lightbulb that's on...other than a bright light?

Re:Radio would be fun to see (3, Informative)

evanbd (210358) | more than 3 years ago | (#28001779)

The long wavelength would make it tricky. What it would look like would depend on how you rendered them, I suppose. The real problem is the diffraction limit -- without a really large sensor, you can't get a very useful resolution. Remember, your eyes have an aperture (pupil) size about 10,000 times larger than the wavelengths of interest. So any vision based on wavelengths in the centimeter range (2.4 GHz wireless is 125mm, compared to 550nm for green light) will be *really* blurry unless you're carrying a gigantic antenna array.

Re:Radio would be fun to see (1)

TinBromide (921574) | more than 3 years ago | (#28001931)

I've thought about this but since radio waves tend to pass through most materials, you'd probably be very aware of sources of radio waves (towers). It might be akin to living in a glass house where you don't have any light bulbs in the house. Radio waves tend to reflect off of hard surfaces, which results in a special form of interference known as multi-path, so there would be some reflections, but you'd probably find yourself not seeing anything transparent to radio waves.

That and due to the inverse square law, the amount of radio waves a safe distance away from radio towers would be very hard to detect and all in all, everything would be very very dark...

Re:Radio would be fun to see (1)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002161)

Due to the wavelengths involved, your radio "eyes" would have to be quite large to get any kind of resolution at all. Depending on the frequencies you want to be able to see, we could be talking meters.

We have SEVEN senses (5, Informative)

inviolet (797804) | more than 3 years ago | (#28001691)

This "five senses" garbage is a favorite example of mine for illustrating how everyone, everywhere, including textbooks, can be obviously mistaken about something 'factual'.

Our sixth sense is accelleration, and the sense organ responsible for this is the semicircular canals in our inner ear. It's how we know where 'down' is, and life would be difficult without this sense. Our seventh sense is proprioception, derived from muscle feedback all over the body.

These qualify as 'senses' because they convert environmental information directly into sensations.

Now, while we're on the subject of ubiquitous factual errors, let's talk about how flat- and symmetric-winged aircraft can fly without any help from the Bernoulli effect.

We have 23 senses (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28001803)

In my biological psychology class, we covered 23 distinct senses that provide use with environmental information.

Re:We have 23 senses (3, Interesting)

evanbd (210358) | more than 3 years ago | (#28001949)

In addition to the usual five, I can easily come up with acceleration / balance, proprioception, and temperature (though I suppose you could count that with touch). I suppose you could count time as well. What else did you list as distinct senses?

Bernoulli (4, Informative)

wonkavader (605434) | more than 3 years ago | (#28001869)

"Now, while we're on the subject of ubiquitous factual errors, let's talk about how flat- and symmetric-winged aircraft can fly without any help from the Bernoulli effect."

Heck, yeah. It's nutty and irresponsible how we pump everyone full of the Bernoulli effect with respect to flight. With low power systems, you probably need the Bernoulli effect, but the more power you have, the more we're talking about a sled/surfboard, rather than an airfoil. This is true in old Cesnas, for goodness sake, and they are tiny and light. Still, the wing generally isn't giving you quite enough lift to keep you up when you fly with the nose completely flat. You MUST have some sledding angle against the oncoming airstream to maintain altitude.

Re:Bernoulli (3, Informative)

inviolet (797804) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002007)

Still, the wing generally isn't giving you quite enough lift to keep you up when you fly with the nose completely flat. You MUST have some sledding angle against the oncoming airstream to maintain altitude.

No airplane seeking to maintain altitude flies with the nose completely flat; the nose is always pitched slightly upward in order to shove air downward with the wings. At speed it happens that the pitch angle is very small -- too small to notice -- but it's there. It has to be. Yes, I'm a private pilot.

You could make a Bernoulli wing to accomplish the same thing, but then it would interfere at other angles of attack. In particular, a pronounced hump on the top of the wing would make the wing more prone to airflow separation and stalling.

Re:Bernoulli (5, Interesting)

icebrain (944107) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002397)

No airplane seeking to maintain altitude flies with the nose completely flat; the nose is always pitched slightly upward in order to shove air downward with the wings. At speed it happens that the pitch angle is very small -- too small to notice -- but it's there. It has to be. Yes, I'm a private pilot.

Actually, the B-52 can often be seen flying nose down in level flight. It takes off and lands fuselage-level.

Why?

Because it's not the fuselage angle that matters, it's the angle of attack relative to the wing. And the B-52's wing is set so that it is at a positive angle of attack relative relative to the oncoming air when the fuselage is level. This pre-set wing angle is called "incidence".

For small angles of attack, you can generally assume that a graph of lift vs. angle of attack is linear. A symmetrical wing will have an X-intercept of 0 (so at zero angle of attack, you get no lift). Adding positive camber slides that X-intercept negative, so to get zero lift you actually need a negative angle of attack. You will also have positive lift at zero angle of attack.

I think the discussions about AOA and other topics are covered far too lightly in most pilot training courses. It also seems to me that it would be very useful to put all new students into some kind of simulator (even just a PC fighter sim) with a heads-up display showing nose "boresight" and a flight path marker, and demonstrating the relationship between alpha, weight, lift, and airspeed in a format that is clearly visible and understandable. Even just 20 or 30 minutes of this might give them a far better understanding of what's actually happening when they're flying.

Yes, I'm a private pilot too. And when I eventually get around to building my airpane, it's going to have a nice prominent AOA indicator, which is far superior to just airspeed for slow flight, maneuvering, and landing.

Re:We have SEVEN senses (4, Funny)

panthroman (1415081) | more than 3 years ago | (#28001877)

These qualify as 'senses' because they convert environmental information directly into sensations.

By that definition, why not count your sense of humor?

Re:We have SEVEN senses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28001981)

Unfortunately you appear to have fallen into your own trap.

What about other senses, for example nociception or thermoception, to name but a few?

Re:We have SEVEN senses (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002119)

Our seventh sense is proprioception, derived from muscle feedback all over the body.

"Proprioception" is one of my favorite words (I'm disappointed to see it's not in the Firefox spell checking dictionary). I even coined the term "vehicular proprioception" for the "sense" of knowing how close you are to hitting stuff when you're driving around in a car. (I got pretty refined vehicular proprioception at my last apartment when it often took 3 or 4 drivereverse transitions to get out of my parking space because of short distances between cars.)

Re:We have SEVEN senses (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002377)

I even coined the term "vehicular proprioception" for the "sense" of knowing how close you are to hitting stuff when you're driving around in a car.

I think this sort of thing is quite amazing. That and how my senses can map onto the controls of a car so I can accelerate, brake and turn in a manner that works in no way like my body, without even thinking about it.

And you'll be pleased to hear that the British Firefox dictionary contains proprioception (although oddly not "Firefox").

Re:We have SEVEN senses (1)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002277)

Depending on how fine you slice it, we have a lot more than five (or six) senses. There are four kinds of receptors in the eyes, five on the tongue, and more than a dozen for smell. Even something as simple as the sense of touch can be broken down into pressure and temperature (and probably something else that I'm forgetting), each with its own specialized nerves to detect the appropriate stimulus. Then there are the meta-senses that are assembled by the brain from raw sensory data: varying pressure on the skin over time as you drag your fingers over a surface gets translated into a very distinct "sense" of texture, and vision and hearing are a cornucopia of derived senses.

While we're at it, why are we still teaching kids that there are only three states of matter?

Re:We have SEVEN senses (1)

germansausage (682057) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002299)

The curved upper surface of the wing produces lift somehow. The upward lift force is equal to the downward force of gravity (equal forces in opposite directions). As soon as a plane rolls inverted the lift from the wing and the downward force of gravity are acting in the same direction and the aircraft immediately accelerates downward at 2 g (19.6 m/s/s).

Re:We have SEVEN senses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28002395)

Isn't proprioception not a sense by that very definition? It aggregates certain channels of data provided by your sense of touch.

Re:We have SEVEN senses (1)

dontmakemethink (1186169) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002623)

Our "sense of direction" is a cognitive property, not a sense, no more than our "sense of humor".

Similarly I consider proprioception to fall under the "touch" category, since it uses the same nerve endings. If you separate proprioception then the same logic can say temperature is another sense, texture another, pain, wind, etc. They're all cognitive interpretations of the same stimuli apparatus.

In Osnabruck (1)

srussia (884021) | more than 3 years ago | (#28001711)

" I could always find my way home. Eventually, I felt I couldn't get lost, even in a completely new place."

I would hope so. For this watchman "Wachter" to get lost in his town would be like me getting lost in my bathroom.

This is so old (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28001713)

I saw this article at least a year back; why is this important now?

perhaps senses we don't realize we have? (3, Interesting)

panthroman (1415081) | more than 3 years ago | (#28001723)

Only recently have we realized that cows and deer have a sense of magnetic direction [pnas.org]. Just this month, the same group found that power lines can muddle the cattle's sense of direction [pnas.org].

It's a stretch, but is it possible we humans have a weak magnetic sense that's simply drowned out by urban noise?

Surely there have been studies on this. Anyone?

Re:perhaps senses we don't realize we have? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28001951)

OMG you have just discovered cold fusion! Cows are clearly superconducting, because they're magnetic and frictionless, so they naturally rotate towards magnetic north!

Yeah, and that has nothing to do with the fact that fences usually run either N/S or E/W, or that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and if you live north of the tropics (as most cattle in the northern hemisphere do), then facing north guarantees that you'll never have sun in your eyes.

(Hint: Cows point north, but not necessarily magnetic north, which can be off by a VERY large margin in some areas.)

Re:perhaps senses we don't realize we have? (3, Informative)

panthroman (1415081) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002155)

(Hint: Cows point north, but not necessarily magnetic north, which can be off by a VERY large margin in some areas.)

The disparity between polar north and magnetic north is exactly what led the researchers to conclude that the cattle are EMF sensing. From the 2008 paper:

"To test the hypothesis that cattle orient their body axes along the field lines of the Earth's magnetic field, we analyzed the body orientation of cattle from localities with high magnetic declination. Here, magnetic north was a better predictor than geographic north."

Re:perhaps senses we don't realize we have? (1)

Smurf (7981) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002525)

Hmmm... someone didn't even read the abstracts that were given to him.

panthroman already pointed out that the first study specifically addresses the fact that the animals tend to face the magnetic and not the geographic north.

From the abstract of the other paper:

Body orientation of cattle and roe deer was random on pastures under or near power lines. Moreover, cattle exposed to various magnetic fields directly beneath or in the vicinity of power lines trending in various magnetic directions exhibited distinct patterns of alignment. The disturbing effect of the ELFMFs on body alignment diminished with the distance from conductors.

Re:perhaps senses we don't realize we have? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28002067)

I think it is known that we humans have a similar sense that we simply haven't been using (disuse leads to weakness, both in brain and muscle).

Sensing a good story for Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28001789)

Sometimes the editors have it.

Sometimes they don't.

I can see a use (3, Funny)

rs232 (849320) | more than 3 years ago | (#28001805)

I can see a use for pilots to help in navigation, an all over body suit with electrodes and a HUD interacting with vibrations and colors to produce a map he can feel, as in turbulence would be more viscous that clear air. Or incoming obstables, the vibration to get your attention and the color on the HUD to tell you what it is. You could also combine it with sound ..
--

Requesting records in non-MS formats FoF 381002R [whatdotheyknow.com] Mar 03 2009

Just makes sense (4, Interesting)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 3 years ago | (#28001811)

We are entering an age of information awareness. We literally have machines that can now read our minds. We would be remiss to not take advantage of this!

I'm a pilot, and for a long time, I stubbornly stuck to the "old way" of navigation using VOR radio navigation rather than the newer GPS-based systems. Basically, every 50 miles or so, there's a radio beacon that broadcasts a directional radio signal that you can triangulate from. My logic was that virtually all planes have some kind of VOR in them, while perhaps 1/3 of planes have GPS units.

But I recently "bit the bullet" and learned to use the GPS in the newer rental plane at the local airport. I noticed it immediately: what a difference! Last week, I flew to an airport I hadn't landed at before - something that's always just a bit nerve-racking with radio navigation due to the unfamiliarity. Typically, I've made it a habit to fly in direct to the "new" airport 1,000 feet above the local traffic pattern to get my bearings and prepare an approach - adding a fair amount of time circling around and so on.

But with the GPS locating me to within a few feet on a "moving map", I was confidently making calls as to my location and whereabouts, and made a direct base approach right to the numbers on the runway! No hunting, no worries about traffic patterns. Just straight in.

No, I didn't surgically implant the GPS unit, but it's clearly a case of technology using the sense of sight to improve informational awareness. I'm all for it! If I could (safely) have a bluetooth display of my mobile phone surgically implanted into my brain so that I could, at any time, access google maps, etc. it would dramatically change how I interface with the world. Just think of the advantages:

1) I'd never get lost.

2) I'd be able to look up new words and concepts as needed, seamlessly.

3) I'd be able to make use of "dead time" such as while driving/flying. (most of the latter is spent at cruise altitude letting the auto-pilot get you there)

This is the future. We already approximate it with our mobile phones - technology will become ever more intimate as we approach the technology singularity.

Get ready for it! Weeeeeeeh!

Re:Just makes sense (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002157)

This is the future. We already approximate it with our mobile phones - technology will become ever more intimate as we approach the technology singularity.

Until we run out of the materials needed to maintain the ubiquity of technology (or they become scarce enough to be too expensive for ubiquitous use).

I'm no luddite, but there are tons of costs associated with technology... and I wonder how long we can support those costs, and what we're willing to do to ensure continued access to those requirements. Economic war? Physical war? Continued (or even more) dependence upon near-slave labor?

There are a myriad set of things necessary for things like GPS. What happens if we can no longer afford to support all of them? What do we pick and choose to let go? I envision a future where we justify agressive international action based upon our economic requirements to sustain an intrinsically unsustainable economy, simply because we are dependent on expensive technology for our every need and want.

In other words, enjoy it while it lasts... because it won't last forever.

See Hear (3, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 3 years ago | (#28001851)

I once read where some researchers learned to "read" spoken words from printed sound spectragrams, where frequency (in various shades based on density) is on one axis and time on the other. This made me wonder whether deaf people couldn't also learn to read them at a near real-time pace with practice. At the time a custom-manufactured device seemed like the way to go, but now an off-the-shelf hand-held computer/phone/PDA is probably up to the task with the right software and mike.

Re:See Hear (1)

7Prime (871679) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002019)

I'm guessing that quite a few audio engineers can do that from a simple waveform (without colorcoded FFT). I do quite a bit of audio production, both for music and for TV. No, I haven't yet learned how to distinguish exact phonetics, but if I know what a person is saying, I can pretty easilly tell which sound goes where. It's taught me a lot about speech phrasing and aspiration. Abviously, without some kind of FFT deliniation (as you were talking about), it would be very difficult to tell the difference between "To Do" and "Go To".

Holy Dupe Batman! (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 3 years ago | (#28001983)

This was cool when I first read it...in 2007 [wired.com].

And it was cool when I was in the Slashdot thread [slashdot.org] as well.

Great thing about "perceptions"... (1)

jimbudncl (1263912) | more than 3 years ago | (#28001995)

Even if you think your "eyes have been opened" (no pun intended), just give it time. You'll soon realize, again, how narrow minded you used to be.

Trust me, this will continue for(;;) until you realize the truth... you no longer fscking care ;)

Only then will you have enlightenment (or will you?!?!, sucka!)

Five senses is not enough (4, Interesting)

w0mprat (1317953) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002111)

Brother Cavil: "I don't want to be human! I want to see gamma rays! I want to hear X-rays! And I want to - I want to smell dark matter! Do you see the absurdity of what I am? I can't even express these things properly because I have to - I have to conceptualize complex ideas in this stupid limiting spoken language! But I know I want to reach out with something other than these prehensile paws! And feel the wind of a supernova flowing over me! I'm a machine! And I can know much more! I can experience so much more. But I'm trapped in this absurd body! And why? Because my five creators thought that God wanted it that way!"

Mega Dupe (1)

lessthan (977374) | more than 3 years ago | (#28002531)

This article is just a summary of several stories from the last 3-4 years. It didn't even mention the really interesting applications for the tongue port device. They are developing a version to be used by the Navy to give divers a version of sonar. Link [couleenews.com]
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