Inside Issue 7: Aleksey Kondratyev and Marco Arguello talk about thermoception

Ice Fishers 25

“August 13, 2018 The sun, high in the sky, warms and toasts tourists and swimmers on the shore. On the contrary, the water of the sea today is really icy. Despite the scorching weather, I can hardly resist soaking for more than a few minutes. But, wait. I have an idea to warm things up a bit…

The pleasure of peeing in the sea (albeit not shared by everyone) has deep atavistic roots. Not everybody knows that the amniotic fluid that hosts the fetus in the womb is composed for the most part from the urine of the future child, mixed with small parts of feces. The sense of temperature – or thermoception – is not among the five most renowned, nevertheless it is quite important. It is perhaps the first with which we relate to this world, while the others are still numb. The temperature in the delivery room is in fact well below the 37 degrees of the womb, and it is precisely among the tremors in this unfriendly environment that the most extreme of the challenge takes place: the first breath through the lungs.

Thereafter, feelings of heat and cold accompany us throughout our entire life… […]

The response time to thermal stimuli varies depending on the intensity of the stimulus and the required response. Sensations related to a sudden temperature variation are transmitted much faster than the others, to preserve tissues from injuries. Sometimes, however, all the speed in this world is not enough to prevent us from doing dumb things…

The thermometer rises above 40° C. I feel cold and sweat at the same time. It looks like my head it’s about to explode at any moment. The only relief? A wet patch on the forehead, for the little time it takes before becoming hot. My mind is to- tally at the mercy of the body. In half-sleep, I enter my usual “fever nightmare”. A monster-truck runs over me repeatedly while I’m falling into an endless dark ravine. Then, a tennis ball rushes towards me, becoming bigger and bigger. Finally, my body inflates endlessly like a balloon. And it starts over and over again. […]

Basically, we have no other access to the world than through our senses. Sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell, the best known. But also thermoception (sense of temperature), no ciception (sense of pain) and proprioception (sense of one’s body). Buddhists also add the mind to the list. I’d recommend to directors of multisensory movies to do the same. It is inde- ed the mind that selects, among the millions of stimuli that we receive, the only ones to be paid attention to. In fact, the- re’s no inherent meaning in sensory information: it’s what we do with that information that matters. It’s not by chance that people born without one sense (such as hearing or sight) are better inclined to develop the other ones, far above the ave- rage. “I can see much clearer now I’m blind”, was said by Al- fredo in the movie “Nuovo Cinema Paradiso”. You may argue: but it was only a 2D movie…

“Beauty is no quality in things themselves: It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives it differently” said David Hume. Senses are just means to see that beauty. Thermoception makes no exception. By switching off your auto-pilot, you become more aware of your senses. You may find out that every sensation, as gentle or harsh can it be, plays an important role in this game called “life”. Then, if you are persistent and lucky enough, you will find yourself into a real “augmented reality” experience.”

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Photo by Marco Arguello

Marcoarguello C41 2

Photo by Marco Arguello


Photo by Marco Arguello

Ice Fishers 31

Photo by Aleksey Kondratyev

Ice Fishers 02

Photo by Aleksey Kondratyev

Time to read
3 min
Words by
Published on
28 December 2018
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