The reality beyond human sensory perception.

March 22, 2006

People still believe things exist only if they can be sensed. “I’ll believe it when I hear/see/feel it.” But articles come out every day, every week and year which suggest that our ability to feel, see, and hear are incredibly limited. For instance, take color. The human eye can only see about 3 different colors (trichromatic if you wanna get technical) of varying degrees. To put it scientifically, the human eye and mind can only see colors ranging from 400nm to 700nm of the electromagnetic spectrum. And maybe I shouldn’t say “mind can … see colors” because in all actuallity, color doesn’t exist. It’s an illusion, a perception. It. Does. Not. Exist. Apples aren’t red…. they just “look” red. At least those crappy ones at the Best Western. I’ll only eat Fuji Apples. Because DAMN are they every tasty. Anyways, back to the electromagnetic spectrum. Like I said, we can only see 400nm to 700nm, and that makes up the millions of colors which we can see. However there are colors, maybe, which exist beyond the 700nm barrier and below the 400nm barrier. Some spiders are tetrachromatic and see the world consisting of 4 colors. What that 4th color looks like is fundamentally beyond my comprehension… at least for now. There’s some genetic evidence which suggest some women might be tetrachromatic.

Sound acts the same way. We can only hear sounds up to a certain frequency whereas dogs can hear way up there. Even our nerves have limits. Take a pen, close your eyes and put a dot on the back of your hand. Open your eyes, see the dot? Good. Close your eyes again and try to hit the same exact spot. You might hit it, you might not. There’s some evidence to suggest that our nervous system is set up by “patches” of nerves all across our skin rather than individually stimulated points of nerves. Which makes a lot of sense. Our fingers need to be more tactile than the skin behind our ears or under our armpits. Nobody, well.. nobody sane.. uses their armpits to “feel” something. No, we use the tips of our fingers.

I just came across this article : http://www.damninteresting.com/?p=473  

and thought about the physiological limits of human sensory perception.  Maybe it’s sort of obvious but people don’t tend to be aware of the undeniable fact that there are colors we cannot see, sounds we cannot hear, and textures we cannot feel. It seems so wildly interesting that there is a reality beyond the reality felt through our senses. What is even more wildly “damn” interesting is the way in which we surpassed our physiological uses of senses by using our intellect in order to be aware of those things which can’t be sensed. We used logic and science to become aware of and “see” the colors beyond what our eyes can see, to “hear” the sounds which are too high or too low for our ears to hear.

Then to think about what we’ve done with the colors and sounds we can see and hear is so humbling when you think about the possibilities of using colors and sounds which we can’t.. currently.. hear or see. The small color spectrum I talked about earlier gave way to the works of Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still, Picasso, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Gogh, Giotto and Michelangelo. The small spectrum of sound which we can hear gave way to the sounds of the The Beatles, Mozart, Philip Glass, Arvo Part, Cliff Martinez, Sam Cooke, Frank Sinatra, and Vivaldi. Anyways.. just something to think about.

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2 Responses to “The reality beyond human sensory perception.”

  1. erin said

    hey, great article.

    i’m just setting out to make an art piece on this exact idea!

    -erin

  2. Greg Marls said

    I think your article in genuinly interesting, but doesn’t go far enough. There are realities which combined constitutes true reality, beyond which our senses as a species will never know. The mind itself is limited in not only its ability to sense and think, but in its ability to comprehend much of what the senses see and much less of what the senses do not see (if they could.) We must accept that the reality created in even the most expanded minds is limited to it ability to think and comprehend. Thanks for the ability to post this.

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