Stories tagged tongue


Tasting light
Tasting lightCourtesy ARTiFactor

Tasting the Light

Just as blind people read words by touching braille bumps, some are now able to "see" objects via a special lollipop that stimulates their taste buds. Images from a video camera control which of the 625 low voltage shocker buttons fire on a one inch square lollipop.

This device, which I wrote about more than 3 years ago (Tongue ESP), is now being submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval.

Robert Beckman, president and chief executive officer of (Wicab) notes that the device (called Brainport) could be approved for market by the end of 2009 at a cost of about $10,000 per machine.

Learn more about Wicab's Brainport

I noticed a link on the Pharyngula blog today. I think the image it leads to deserves the Beauty of Nature award for today, as well as the Warm Hug from Mother Earth certificate.

Check it out.

(Be warned—depending on where you're coming from, you might find this Looney Tunes-hilarious, or, you know, kind of disturbing.)


A Rattlesnake: You know, I probably wouldn't put it in my mouth, but I hate to pass judgment on this sort of thing.  (photo by 4x4jeepchick on
A Rattlesnake: You know, I probably wouldn't put it in my mouth, but I hate to pass judgment on this sort of thing. (photo by 4x4jeepchick on
A Portland man recently placed a sober rattlesnake into his drunken mouth, and was bitten on the tongue. This brings the universal tally of people bitten on the tongue by rattlesnakes up to four (the other three being, of course, the man who discovered rattlesnakes; herpetologist and pioneer in ethnomedicine, Jeannette San Pierre; and Sammy Hagar).

In an effort tom impress his ex-girlfriend, reptile enthusiast Matt Wilkinson placed the head of a 20-inch rattlesnake in his mouth at a friend’s barbeque. He had found the snake beside the highway three weeks earlier, and believed at the time that it would not harm him because it was “a nice snake.” His ex apparently wouldn’t take his word for it, and so he attempted to prove her wrong.

Soon after this Wilkinson was near death, with his tongue so swollen that it completely blocked his throat. After his ex-girlfriend drove him to the hospital (that’s the kind of ex-girlfriend I want) doctors cut a hole in his neck so he could breath, and then administered an antivenin.

Where’s the science here, you ask (this is a science blog, after all)?
Well, the snake – snakes are science. And cutting a hole in Matt’s neck – that’s probably science too. And there are a few science-related lessons to be gained here:
1) Don’t put anything you find beside the highway into your mouth, especially if it’s a rattlesnake.
2) Rattlesnakes don’t like to feel like they are being eaten, and will defend themselves if the situation arises.
3) It takes six beers and “a mixture of stupid stuff” to get a 23-year-old male to reach snake-eating levels of drunkenness.
4) Ex-girlfriends can still be an asset in assuring that you pass on your genes.

The story did not say what happened to the snake.


Tongue ESP: The tongue can be used to sense input from machines via a grid of electrodes placed on the tongue which is stimulated with electricity.

Using Tongue ESP?: She probably isn't but could be in the future.
Courtesy Creap

What extra sensory perceptions would would you like? Seeing behind your back? Smelling odorless gasses like carbon monoxide? How about seeing in the dark? Sensors already exist that can do these things. All that is needed is a way to input what they sense into our brains. The most common way to input information from external sensors is visually. We can use our eyes to see distant airplanes or weather clouds on a radar scope. We can read how much carbon monoxide is in the air we breath by looking at a meter.

Suppose we need to sense things without using our eyes. Most often when we cannot see, we use our fingers to get information. Blind people use a cane to feel thier way around. Sometimes they tap their cane and listen for echoes to sense a barrier.

Another way to sense data about our environment is with our tongue. Suppose a ten by ten grid of electrodes were placed on the tongue and small voltages were used to create various patterns of sensation on the tongue. Just like bumps on paper can create thousands of words for people trained to read braille, the hundred electrodes on the tongue can allow trained people to sense data from sonar, radar, toxin detectors, or any other data measurable by various sensors.

At the institute for Machine and Human Cognition (IFHMC) Anil Raj is principle investigator in research titled: Adaptive Human/Machine Multi-sensory Prostheses. They are working on TSAS: Tactile Situation Awareness System. The research is exploring how electrodes on the tongue or in a body suit can allow users to receive input from external devices. Such input is desirable when your hands and eyes are already too busy or when they cannot be used.