An Engineer's Literary Notebook

Exploring the real and surreal connections between poetry and engineering

Surprising The Senses

Posted by xbanguyen on July 10, 2016

dragonfly1If you were able to touch the wings of a dragonfly in flight one summer afternoon, would you be able to replicate the sensation of flying? Icarus not withstanding, intentionally directional weightlessness would be a welcome addition to our other senses.  Am I terribly greedy? Is it not enough already to be able to hear the seagulls, to see, feel, smell and taste the first berries of summer? Is having each of the five senses heightened sufficient, or is it a blessing to have them metamorphosed when the senses invoked by one stimulus is unexpected, such as experiencing a sharp crunchiness when seeing the letter A or, perhaps more commonly, seeing a particular color where hearing a musical scale. Rhapsody in blue could literally be blue, in the realm of synesthesia.

Removing religion from the word blessing, it is more satisfying to argue that a synesthete is blessed because biologically, synesthesia is conjectured to be the results from an excess of neural connections between associated sensory modalities, and having an abundance of neural connections increases the complexity in the permutation of sensory perception Grapheme_color_synesthetesupon receiving a particular stimulus, enriching the experience of living.  I like to think that a grapheme-color synesthete sees rainbows when others see strings of numbers. So by not such a long leap, an engineer can also see poetry in logic equations. After all, Omar Khayyam, he who wrote these immortal lines Rubaiyat

 

 

also wrote Treatise on Demonstration of Problems of Algebra in which he provided a geometric method for solving cubic equations by intersecting a hyperbola with a circle. The Rubáiyát, gilded and bound in leather, was among the high school graduation presents I received many years ago. The melancholy pleasure afforded when I read those lines for the first time still resonates; the neurons that make up this experience feel immortal and ephemeral at the same time.

OmarKayyam

It was still early summer in Seattle. A walk with the sea on one side and lush gardens full of delphiniums on the other side heightened all senses just like this poem does.

LightsInterrptedAmplitude

Tangles of seaweed enhanced the fecund smell of the sea. The receding tide was to reach -2.5 soon.   Following her mama, a  baby eagle took wings, screeching excitedly. For a moment, the gratitude of being was almost overwhelming, making superfluous the knowledge that  synesthesia can be selectively augmented with cathodal stimulation of the primary visual cortex.

Thank you for the topic, dear Muse.

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Acknowledgement

  1. Many thanks to the poet Jay Wright for writing Light’s Interrupted Amplitude.
  2. All scientific information on synesthesia is from http://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(11)01193-6
  3. The dragonfly photo is fromhttp://www.dragonhunter.net/
  4. A brief biography of Omar Kayyam is from http://www.famousscientists.org
  5. The image of Omar Kayyam is from http://www.findingdulcinea.com/
  6. The mathematical manuscript image is from en.wikipedia.org

 

 

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