In 1909, the biologist Jakob von Uexküll introduced the concept of the umwelt. He wanted a word to express a simple (but often overlooked) observation: Different animals in the same ecosystem pick up on different environmental signals. In the blind and deaf world of the tick, the important signals are temperature and the odor of butyric acid. For the black ghost knifefish, it’s electrical fields. For the echolocating bat, it’s air-compression waves. The small subset of the world that an animal is able to detect is its umwelt. The bigger reality, whatever that might mean, is called the umgebung.

The interesting part is that each organism presumably assumes its umwelt to be the entire objective reality “out there.” Why would any of us stop to think that there is more beyond what we can sense? In the movie The Truman Show, the eponymous Truman lives in a world completely constructed around him by an intrepid television producer. At one point, an interviewer asks the producer, “Why do you think Truman has never come close to discovering the true nature of his world?” The producer replies, “We accept the reality of the world with which we’re presented.” We accept our umwelt and stop there.


David Eagleman on how each species of animal senses only a small portion of the world, and assumes that small fraction is the entire world.

Folksonomies: perception senses

/science/biology (0.577358)
/hobbies and interests/paranormal phenomena (0.542157)
/business and industrial (0.511182)

Umwelt David Eagleman (0.924732 (neutral:0.000000)), biologist Jakob von (0.896259 (neutral:0.000000)), different environmental signals (0.822243 (neutral:0.000000)), entire objective reality (0.796157 (positive:0.255158)), black ghost knifefish (0.786507 (neutral:0.000000)), intrepid television producer (0.772702 (positive:0.429059)), eponymous Truman (0.636755 (positive:0.429059)), small fraction (0.578876 (neutral:0.000000)), bigger reality (0.574725 (negative:-0.397794)), entire world (0.573957 (neutral:0.000000)), animal senses (0.569194 (neutral:0.000000)), small portion (0.561086 (neutral:0.000000)), important signals (0.552502 (negative:-0.445977)), deaf world (0.531006 (negative:-0.758396)), butyric acid (0.526562 (negative:-0.445977)), air-compression waves (0.525953 (neutral:0.000000)), Different animals (0.521436 (neutral:0.000000)), electrical fields (0.519770 (neutral:0.000000)), small subset (0.518758 (neutral:0.000000)), true nature (0.499746 (neutral:0.000000)), interviewer (0.283839 (negative:-0.209051)), odor (0.271439 (negative:-0.445977)), tick (0.271215 (negative:-0.758396)), ecosystem (0.267619 (neutral:0.000000)), observation (0.265867 (neutral:0.000000)), organism (0.265153 (positive:0.255158)), bat (0.262077 (neutral:0.000000)), species (0.261647 (neutral:0.000000)), Uexküll (0.260352 (neutral:0.000000)), concept (0.256943 (neutral:0.000000))

Truman:Person (0.962795 (positive:0.429059)), Jakob von Uexküll:Person (0.948450 (neutral:0.000000)), producer:JobTitle (0.832501 (positive:0.110004)), David Eagleman:Person (0.741926 (neutral:0.000000))

The Truman Show (0.964605): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Product placement (0.608034): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Executive producer (0.576495): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Ed Harris (0.556334): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
52nd British Academy Film Awards (0.549344): dbpedia | yago

 This Will Make You Smarter
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Brockman , John (2012-02-14), This Will Make You Smarter, HarperCollins, Retrieved on 2013-12-19
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: science


    25 MAR 2013

     Science Reveals the World Beyond Our Senses

    Microscopes, X-Rays, Telescopes, and other instruments reveal the hidden world we cannot see with our five senses. Science increases what we can know beyond our physical limitations.
    Folksonomies: cognition senses prosthesis
    Folksonomies: cognition senses prosthesis