Posted in Life & Happiness


The following is a story from a school in Detroit, USA, many years ago. One day during class, the class lost a mouse that was needed for an experiment. The students looked desperately for the mouse, but no one could find it. The teacher then said: “Everyone be quiet, Stevie Morris will be able to find the mouse”.

The students replied: “That’s impossible, Morris will never find the mouse”. The reason being, Morris was blind.

The teacher said: “You’re right. But Morris, while not being able to see, has excellent hearing. He will be able to hear and find the mouse that you cannot see”.

Morris was extremely touched by this comment. He realised that his blindness was not just a disability, but also gave him a superior sense of hearing compared to others. Morris used his hearing to nurture his musical talent and became a successful singer-songwriter. This boy is Stevie Wonder.

Talent is not something grand. At first, it merely appears tiny, useless and infantile. Stevie Wonder only started off as a boy with good hearing; he was not born a genius singer-songwriter. To develop a talent into a real talent, two extra factors are needed. The first is a master, such as Stevie Wonder’s teacher, who can identify and nurture a child’s natural talent. The second is another talent that when combined with the master’s guidance, develops the talent into something great. This something is effort. Effort is a talent that everyone can have. Those who complain that they are talentless are simply people who have not yet put in the effort.

Posted in Science & Nature

Belling The Cat

There once lived a community of mice in the attic of a house. The mice would sneak into kitchens, gnaw holes in the walls and run about freely. The owners were so fed up that they brought in a cat, causing the mice to all hide in fear. The terrified mice eventually held a meeting to discuss how they would sneak around the house without getting caught by the cat. One mouse suggested: “What if we put a bell around the neck of the cat? Then we can hear it coming and run away.”. The mice unanimously agreed that it was a brilliant idea. However, when they came to decide who would bell the cat, no mouse was brave enough to step forward and the plan was never carried out.

What would actually happen if a cat was belled? Without a doubt, the cat would take it as a cruel, cruel punishment. Not because it cannot catch mice, but because the sound of the bell ringing every time it moves will be extremely loud for the cat. A cat’s hearing is six times better than a human’s. With this excellent hearing, the constant sound of bells attacking its eardrums would be physical torture for the cat.

Furthermore, a cat can hear frequencies as high as 40,000Hz. A person can only hear up to 20,000Hz, meaning a cat hears over twice the range of sounds we can. This combined with the boosted volume results in the cat living in a very noisy world. Ergo, putting a bell around a cat’s neck is an extremely atrocious thing to do.

Posted in Philosophy

An Opinion On The Senses

There are five physical senses and five mental senses.

The physical senses are sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell.

The mental senses are emotions, imagination, intuition, understanding and inspiration.

If a person only uses their five physical senses to live, that is like using the five fingers on their left hand only.

(Die fünf Sinne (The Five Senses) by Hans Makart, 1840-1884)

Posted in Psychology & Medicine

Sensory Illusion

The five senses we use to experience the world are simply wondrous. However, thanks to our not-so-perfect brain, these senses can easily be distorted. Illusions are a very good way to show how the brain processes sensory information and there are many fascinating examples.

Almost everyone has seen an optical illusion before, such as Penrose’s endless stairs or the Muller-Lyer illusion. There are countless more examples such as static pictures that appear to be moving and illusions in colour perception (A and B are the same colour). This is caused by the brain not recording images like a camera, but rather processing visual information and reconstructing an image. There are four main types of optical illusions: ambiguous (e.g. rabbit or duck), distortion (Café wall illusion), paradoxical (Penrose triangle) and fictional (only seen in hallucinations or by schizophrenics).

(Do you see the dolphins? Children cannot see the man and woman because they cannot comprehend it, whilst adults cannot overpower the sexual image)

Like vision, every other sense can be fooled in a similar fashion.
Auditory illusions that distort what we hear are fairly common, a good example being the infinitely ascending Shepard scale (which are just a series of the same ascending octave scale). Also, the McGurk effect shows how the brain uses a multimodal approach where it involves both hearing and vision when listening.

There are also tactile illusions. For example, if you pull your top lip to left and the bottom lip to the right, then prod the middle of the lips with a pencil, it feels like there are two. However, the more famous case is of the Phantom Limb, where an amputee’s brain still believes that the limb is there, causing it to “feel” the limb or even feel pain.

The other two senses aren’t as famous in terms of illusions, but definitely exist.
Smell is easy to fool through chemicals as it is the physiological method of detecting smell. It also exhibits olfactory fatigue where it becomes desensitised to a strong smell.
Taste illusions are more fascinating and easily seen. They are caused by two or more tastes forming a synergy to produce a completely different taste. For instance, mixing barley tea and milk produces a coffee milk taste, while cucumber and honey tastes like melons.
A more fascinating illusion involves Miracle Fruit Berries, which contain a substance called miraculin that distorts the taste of sourness to sweetness.

This shows how we can fool all five senses, and learn more about the mysterious organ that is the brain.