Science of the Senses at the 2014 USA Science & Engineering Festival

The 2014 USA Science & Engineering Festival drew tens of thousands of people in Washington, D.C. to celebrate science, technology, and innovation on April 25–27. In addition to "science celebrities" like Bill Nye, Michio Kaku, and Carl Zimmer (among many others) giving talks and doing performances, AAAS contributed with our interactive Science of the Senses booth. The booth was organized by Bob Hirshon and Dione Rossiter from AAAS Education and Human Resources and run by AAAS staff, members, and affiliates.

The Science of the Senses focused on the neuroscience of vision, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. While many people are familiar with their five senses, fewer are aware of differences between people's senses or how their senses can be manipulated. An activity station for each sense at the booth allowed attendees to experience these phenomena firsthand: for instance, a jellybean taste test revealed that about 80% of taste actually comes from one's sense of smell; optical illusions showed how easily vision can be manipulated; and a series of braille challenges at the touch station asked attendees to read with their hands. Meanwhile, the nearby AAAS Meet the Scientists stage hosted over a dozen neuroscientists over the weekend who gave presentations on their research on the senses.

If you weren't able to make it to the Science of the Senses booth at the USA Science & Engineering Festival, take a look at these Science NetLinks resources on the senses. Start with the Science of the Senses collection, the My Senses Tell Me... lesson, and the Welcome to Your Brain lesson for a primer on the topic. For vision, check out these Science Update podcasts: Mona Lisa's Smile, Eye Tracking, and Reading Glasses. The Perfect Pitch Science Update and the Sensational Sounds Afterschool Resource are great for learning about hearing. Use the Skin Cells lesson to understand the sense of touch. The Cola Brains and Popsicle Flavors Science Updates are interesting looks into some of the weirder aspects of the sense of taste. Finally, the Asparagus Odor Science Update and The Microbial World is an Olfactory World lesson tie in to the sense of smell.

Thanks to all who came to the 2014 USA Science & Engineering Festival and our AAAS Science of the Senses booth. We had a blast and hope you did too. Most importantly, we hope to see you next year!


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