Friday, September 12, 2008

My Crackpot Ideas
Or, Oh, Baby, Yes, Baby

Years ago, I think it was back in college, I opined about a hypothesis I had developed to some derision by a friend of mine. I get these hypotheses from time to time and they're not the kind of thing I have any way to test, but they're just examples of free floating thoughts. It's just idle mental pattern-making, looking for connections where none (as far as I am aware) have been thought to exist.

For example, I believe that men should occasionally urinate in their yards to prevent burglary.

Stay with me for a second.

It has been conclusively demonstrated that our brains are hardwired to register odors that are actually too faint to be noticed consciously. The brain actually has a sort of sensory collection function and at the same time a sensory censorship function or else you'd be all raw nerves constantly having to notice your too tight shoe and someone's gum and the smell of the carpet and the faint sound of things far away.

The brain filters much of this out, but sometimes you suddenly become aware of something that your brain has been noting for quite some time. For instance, that prickly feeling that someone is behind you might actually be your brain taking the smell of the person into account but not telling you about it until it's almost too late.

And so, in keeping with my hypothesis, burglars' brains would note the urine markers of a male on the property and perhaps get "a feeling" to try a different place to rob.

Just one of the many ways that my mind sometimes works.

Well, the hypothesis I mentioned to my friend was that you could judge a woman's fertility based on the sway of her hips. I postulated that a greater amount of hip-shake indicated a higher rate of fertility because the motion of the hips acted as a cradling mechanism for babies. This was nature's way of signaling a good breeder, letting potential mates know that a female's body was ideally suited for the bearing of children.

It's not exactly on the money, the correlation between female orgasm and fertility still hotly debated, but this recent scientific study suggests I might have been on to something.


.the crapcrot tomato. said...

Dear boy... I adore your theories. And it comes as no surprise that you might have been right about the hip-one. You did always have an eye for that sort of thing...

Whenever I think about our sense of smell, as compared to that of animals, I think of this section from Douglas Adams' nonfiction book LAST CHANCE TO SEE. I'll include the excerpt below (and in a second or third comment if necessary) for those of you with nothing better to do than read books online.

As far as set-up goes, he's tracking an endangered species, the northern white rhino, and musing about scent.

From LAST CHANCE TO SEE, by Douglas Adams.

At about forty yards' distance, the rhinoceros suddenly stopped eating and looked up. It turned slowly to look at us, and regarded us with grave suspicion while we tried very hard to look like the smallest and most inoffensive animal we could possibly be. It watched us carefully but without apparent comprehension, its small black eyes peering dully at us from either side of its horn. You can't help but try and follow an animal's thought processes, and you can't help, when faced with an animal like a three ton rhinoceros with nasal passages bigger than its brain, but fail.
The world of smells is now virtually closed to modern man. Not that we haven't got a sense of smell - we sniff our food or wine, we occasionally smell a flower, and can usually tell if there's a gas leak, but generally it's all a bit of a blur, and often an irrelevant or bothersome blur at that. When we read that Napoleon wrote to Josephine on one occasion, `Don't wash - I'm coming home,' we are simply bemused and almost think of it as deviant behaviour. We are so used to thinking of sight, closely followed by hearing, as the chief of the senses that we find it hard to visualise (the word itself is a giveaway) a world which declares itself primarily to the sense of smells. It's not a world our mental processors can resolve - or, at least, they are no longer practised in resolving it. For a great many animals, however, smell is the chief of the senses. It tells them what is good to eat and what is not (we go by what the packet tells us and the sell-by date). It guides them towards food that isn't within line of sight (we already know where the shops are). It works at night (we turn on the light). It tells them of the presence and state of mind of other animals (we use language). It also tells them what other animals have been in the vicinity and doing what in the last day or two (we simply don't know, unless they've left a note). Rhinoceroses declare their movements and their territory to other animals by stamping in their faeces, and then leaving smell traces of themselves wherever they walk, which is the sort of note we would not appreciate being left.
When we smell something slightly unexpected, if we can't immediately make sense of it and it isn't particularly bothersome, we simply ignore it, and this is probably equivalent to the rhino's reaction to seeing us. It appeared not to make any particular decision about us, but merely to forget that it had a decision to make. The grass presented it with something infinitely richer and more interesting to its senses, and the animal returned to cropping it.
We crept on closer. Eventually we got to within about twenty-five yards, and Charles signalled us to stop. We were close enough. Quite close enough. We were in fact astoundingly close to it.
The animal measured about six feet high at its shoulders, and sloped down gradually towards its hindquarters and its rear legs, which were chubby with muscle. The sheer immensity of every part of it exercised a fearful magnetism on the mind. When the rhino moved a leg, just slightly, huge muscles moved easily under its heavy skin like Volkswagens parking.
The noise of our cameras seemed to distract it and it looked up again, but not in our direction. It appeared not to know what to think about this, and after a while returned to its grazing.
The light breeze that was blowing towards us began to shift its direction, and we shifted with it, which brought us round more to the front of the rhino. This seemed to us, in our world dominated by vision, to be an odd thing to do, but so long as the rhino could not smell us, it could take or leave what we looked like. It then turned slightly towards us itself, so that we were suddenly crouched in full. view of the beast. It seemed to chew a little more thoughtfully, but for a while paid us no more mind than that. We watched quietly for fully three or four minutes, and even the sound of our cameras ceased to bother the animal. After a few minutes we became a little more careless about noise, and started to talk to each other about our reactions, and now the rhino became a little more restive and uneasy. It stopped grazing, lifted its head and looked at us steadily for about a minute, still uncertain what to do.
Again, I imagine myself, sitting here in my study writing this through the afternoon and gradually realising that a slight smell I had noticed earlier is still there, and beginning to wonder if I should start to look for other clues as to what it could be. I would start to look for something, something I could see: a bottle of something that's fallen over, or something electrical that's overheating. The smell is simply the clue that there's something I should look for.
For the rhino, the sight of us was simply a clue that there was something he should sniff for, and he began to sniff the air more carefully, and to move around in a slow careful arc. At that moment the wind began to move around and gave us away completely. The rhino snapped to attention, turned away from us, and hurtled off across the plain like a nimble young tank.
We had seen our northern white rhinoceros, and it was time to go home.

ThoughtCriminal said...

You have inspired me to wonder if I post comments in other people's blogs for the same reason that dogs urinate in the corner of their yards.