Blue Sky Science: Can people have the abilities of animals?

Elijah Edwards


Can people have the abilities of animals?

This question brings up all kinds of interesting issues about who we are as humans and how we compare to other animals.

For example, we share with animals the ability to use vision to understand the world around us, but how we do it is very different. With our color vision, we can see colors along a broad spectrum. But there are colors that exist in nature that we can’t see that other animals can.

Bees, for example, can see ultraviolet light, which is outside the spectrum we can see. You think a flower looks a specific way, but a butterfly sees something different, and a bee sees something else altogether.

A sense of smell is something we share with other animals, but again, how we smell and how good we are at it varies tremendously. A lot of us know that dogs are really good with their noses. Though we’re better at using our noses than we usually think we are, dogs can smell things that we could never smell.

Another ability we share with animals is the reception of pheromones. Pheromones are chemicals that we secrete through bodily fluids like sweat, and though they aren’t consciously smelled, they go to receptors in your brain and can have a strong influence on your behavior. It’s really important in insects and how they find their mates, for example, and it’s important in human as well.

There are lots of smart animals out there—like parrots and dolphins and crows—and we’re learning so much about their intelligence. But the fact is, humans are really good at thinking and planning and strategizing, and because of that we’ve been able to create machines that allow us to expand our abilities.

We know that bees can see colors that we can’t because we’re smart enough to be able to create machines that allow us to see what they see. We can create technologies that allow us to hear things that other animals do, things we wouldn’t be able to hear otherwise.

We all imagine the world as being one reality, what we see and hear and smell. But the fact is, there are lots of experiences out there, depending on what species you are.