Inner Nature: Getting touchy-feely with Somatosensation

By Vidja Rajan, Columnist, The Times Somatosensation is the ability of the body to sense stimuli, but is not as straightforward as it seems. For example, touch can range from being barely perceptible to being excruciating; an itch that is scratched can go from feeling pleasurable to painful. Percussion and loud music can can be felt as a physical sensation. How does this happen, and is it touch or...

Inner Nature: Good Vibrations – The Science of Hearing

By Vidya Rajan, Columnist, The Times A disturbance in any medium except vacuum causes vibrations whose energy is transmitted from atom to atom in all directions from the epicenter. These waves encode the amplitude (intensity) and frequency (pitch)(see Figure 1) of the disturbance thus broadcasting information to anyone who can decode the vibrations. Animals, whose very existence depends on whether...

Inner Nature: Eye see colors

By Vidya Rajan, Columnist, The Times Eyes harvest light reflected from objects. Optic nerves transmit that information to the brain. The brain turns that information into an image. Thus eyes are the intermediary between an object and its perception. Let’s look at them more carefully. Don’t shrink from anatomical detail or biochemistry – this is fun stuff. It’s fun because delving into biomechanical...

Inner Nature: Metamorphosis – Buggy Development

By Vidya Rajan, Columnist, The Times The growth of a single cell from a fertilized egg, or zygote, to an adult composed of trillions of cells is amazing and magical. This process which scientists, with their knack for understatement, call “development” happens with most eukaryotic organisms – those that have cells with a nucleus and other membranous compartments. Nucleated eukaryotic cells are...