- How many senses are there in you?
- Which of the following—paperclips, you, or a tomato—is magnetic?
- Which pigments and paints have primary colors?
- Which part of the tongue is in charge of detecting bitter flavors?
- What are matter’s states?
In any school test, you would have received full points if you had responded with five, paperclips, red, yellow, and blue, the back of the tongue, and gas, liquid, and solid. You would have been mistaken, though.
#Fact 1: More than six senses
Our senses of taste, touch, sight, hearing, and smell are only a few of the many ways we perceive the environment. Accelerometers, which are part of the vestibular system in our ears, allow us to detect movement. We perceive movement and maintain our sense of balance thanks to the flow of fluid via small canals located deep within our ears. Make yourself feel lightheaded, and you are confusing yourself in this way.
We feel our blood become acidic when we hold our breath because carbon dioxide dissolves in it and forms carbonic acid. Not to mention a plethora of additional senses that enable us to react to both our internal and external surroundings, such as those for temperature, pain, and time.
#Fact 2: Repulsion by magnetism
Not all magnetic objects are paperclips. Magnetic fields also interact with humans and tomatoes.
Ferromagnets, paperclips, and other items containing iron, cobalt, and nickel are susceptible to being drawn to magnetic fields. On the other hand, magnetic fields resist the water in you and the tomato, or more precisely, the hydrogen atoms in the water. Diamantism is the name given to this relationship.
However, the forces at play are rather weak. Thus, you usually don’t notice them. Unless, of course, you have spent time inside an MRI machine. There, a powerful magnet manipulates the nuclei of different atoms inside of you to produce intricate pictures of your inside organs.
Nevertheless, diamagnetic interactions are visible without having to visit a hospital. All you need are a few cherry tomatoes, a pin, a wooden kebab stick, and a powerful magnet:
There are other varieties of magnetism, but we’ll talk about those at a later date.
#Fact 3: You’re painting with the wrong color
It was explained to you that primary colors are those that cannot be created by combining other colored pigments; these primary colors may then be blended to create all other colors. Blue and red fall short on both fronts. Red may be created by combining magenta and yellow. While blue is produced when magenta and cyan are combined. Meanwhile, starting with simply red, blue, and yellow prevents you from accessing a vast array of colors.
By the end of the 19th century, color theorists had this all figured out, but for some reason, it hasn’t made it into school curricula. Your color printer cartridges are the evidence. The actual primary colors—magenta, yellow, and cyan—are available for them.
#Fact 4: The bitter taste in your mouth
Do you recall the tongue-map illustrations used in biology textbooks? They eloquently illustrate how the taste buds for bitter are located at the rear of the tongue, whereas the taste buds for sweet, sour, and salty are located in separate areas.
First published in 1942, these tongue maps were the result of a Harvard University professor named Edwin Boring misinterpreting a 1901 German research. Despite Boring’s error, school textbooks soon began to use the maps. When the subject was brought up again in 1974, the theory was completely debunked. However, tongue taste maps are still seen in biology textbooks more than 40 years later.
#Fact 5: Examine the condition of your screen.
We’ve all learned that solids maintain their form because of the organized molecules within them. These melt into pourable liquids with a consistent volume. Gases are created when liquids evaporate and expand to occupy the available volume. That concludes the discussion of the three states of matter.
Except, obviously, more. The molecules that make up liquid crystals are fluid-like liquids yet organized like solids. Your cells, shampoo, and of course liquid crystal (LCD) flat-screen gadgets depend on these qualities.
However, why confine yourself to only four states? Bose-Einstein condensates, superfluids, and hundreds more exist, along with plasma, which is the state of matter for the majority of matter in the sun.
Is it time to update textbooks?
The five “facts” in school textbooks are not the only ones that need to be corrected. I’m not saying we should start educating six-year-olds about stuff that only shows up in physics labs that earn Nobel Prizes, or that we should pack the curriculum with information in every sense imaginable. Perhaps, though, we ought to quit lying to children.
“We have many senses, here are the five we are going to learn about” might be a good way to begin a biology class. Or an occasional remark mentioning the existence of states of matter other than the three mentioned above. Regarding the tongue map, simply tear that page from the book.