Living in the Now

I read this today in the New York Times:

If a person touches your toe and your nose at the same time, he says, “you will feel those touches as simultaneous. This is surprising because the signal from your nose reaches your brain before the signal from your toe. Why didn’t you feel the nose touch when it first arrived?”

It may be that our sensory perception of the world has to wait for the slowest piece of information to arrive, Eagleman says.

“Given conduction times along limbs, this leads to the bizarre but testable suggestion that tall people may live further in the past than short people.”

Because for the taller person it takes a tenth of a second longer for the toe-touch to travel up the foot, the ankle, the calf, the thigh, the backbone to the brain, the brain waits that extra beat to announce a “NOW!” That tall person will live his sensory life on a teeny delay (at least as regards toe-touching). This, of course, could apply to all kinds of lower-extremity experiences — cold or heat against the skin, tickles, rubs, hitting a soccer ball — the list goes on and on.

Isn’t that interesting?!? Constantly frustrated by pants that need hemming, shelves/counters/benches/chairs that are too high, hard to reach items in the grocery store, and having to look up other people’s noses all the time, this little insight gives me a new reason to relish my stature. Not that I have much choice (I haven’t grown so much as a millimeter in years), but I’ll happily trade the ability to reach the top shelf (I can always use a ladder) for a greater ability to live in the present. No more “vertically challenged” for me!

[Click here for the full article]


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