Tuesday, 9 July 2013

If I had a superpower for a day... (why I think the Mantis Shrimp is a little bit cool)

To have a superpower is to possess an ability that is superhuman. Something that is not biologically, physically, chemically and psychologically possible for us do in our natural Homo sapien state. 

Therefore, if I were to have a superpower for a day, it would be the ability to view the world through the eyes of another living organism, in particular, the mantis shrimp. Our human eyes have millions of light sensitive photoreceptive cells called rods that enable us to see light & motion, and cones which provide us with color vision. Dogs have two types of color-receptive cones, green and blue which allow them to see these colors plus some yellow. We have green, blue and red cone types which enable us to see not only red but all the colors that derive from red such as orange and purple when mixed with yellow and blue. However, the mantis shrimp has a phenomenal sixteen types of color-receptive cone cells. It is mind-blowing to imagine what an ordinary rainbow that we see with three colors looks like to a mantis shrimp. I would like to see the world through the sixteen cone photoreceptor celled eyes of the mantis shrimp. 

This superpower will provide me with a window into the plethora of undiscovered perception that exists in everyday life. I would like to find out what other colors exist and whether they would exist at all, being something invisible to human eye. Not only this, but I think it's important as Earthlings to attempt to fully understand the species we share the planet with before exploring other worlds. After this day, I would then attempt to describe and possibly code what I saw so that others may experience the mysterious and extraordinary world of the mantis shrimp. I find this to be one of the most intriguing areas because the translation of the enriched vision of the mantis shrimp will be difficult in the three-coned eyes through which we see the world.

I chose this superpower since I believe other species and other adaptations are in fact the superpowers that humans crave. We are not the fastest, the most efficient, the largest or the most agile however, we are the best tool-makers on the planet. As opposed to being limited by the biology that we are born with, we invented and built our way to become the leading species. However, I think it is important to learn from the greatest inventor of them all, natural selection. Biomimcry in technological advancement will enable humans to truly become superhuman.

(I submitted this into a creative writing competition for NASA interns to win a trip to Google HQ. I didn't win but I thought I'd share it here for you guys to see how geeky I get about the wonders of Biology)

To see where I got my inspiration from check out 'The Oatmeal':

- Nikita

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