The Most Extraordinary Human Abilities

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9. Supertasters

A supertaster is a person who experiences the sense of taste with far greater intensity than average. Women are more likely to be supertasters, as are Asians and Africans. Among individuals of European descent, it is estimated that about 25% of the population are supertasters.

The cause of this heightened response is currently unknown, although it is thought to be, at least in part, due to an increased number of fungiform papillae. The evolutionary advantage to supertasting is unclear. In some environments, heightened taste response, particularly to bitterness, would represent an important advantage in avoiding potentially toxic plant alkaloids.

However, in other environments, increased response to bitter may have limited the range of palatable foods. In a modern, energy-rich environment, supertasting may be cardioprotective, due to decreased liking and intake of fat, but may increase cancer risk via decreased vegetable intake. It may be a cause of picky eating, but picky eaters are not necessarily supertasters, and vice versa. -Wikipedia.org

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8. Absolute pitch

Absolute pitch (AP), or perfect pitch, is the ability to name or reproduce a tone without reference to an external standard. The naming/labeling of notes need not be verbal. AP can also be demonstrated by other codes such as auditory imagery or sensorimotor responses, for example, reproducing a tone on an instrument.

Therefore a musician from an aural tradition, with no musical notation, can still exhibit AP if allowed to reproduce a sounded note. Possessors of absolute pitch exhibit the ability in varying degrees. Individuals may possess both absolute pitch and relative pitch ability in varying degrees. Both relative and absolute pitch work together in actual musical listening and practice, although individuals exhibit preferred strategies in using each skill. -Wikipedia.org

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7. Tetrachromacy

Tetrachromacy is the condition of possessing four independent channels for conveying color information, or possessing four different types of cone cells in the eye. Organisms with tetrachromacy are called tetrachromats.  In tetrachromatic organisms, the sensory color space is four-dimensional, meaning that to match the sensory effect of arbitrarily chosen spectra of light within their visible spectrum requires mixtures of at least four different primary colors.

The normal explanation of tetrachromacy is that the organism’s retina contains four types of higher-intensity light receptors (called cone cells in vertebrates as opposed to rod cells which are lower intensity light receptors) with different absorption spectra. This means the animal may see wavelengths beyond those of a typical human being’s eyesight, and may be able to distinguish colors that to a human appear to be identical. -Wikipedia.org

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6. Echolocation

Human echolocation is the ability of humans to sense objects in their environment by hearing echoes from those objects. This ability is used by some blind people to navigate within their environment. They actively create sounds, such as by tapping their canes, lightly stomping their foot or by making clicking noises with their mouths. Human echolocation is similar in principle to active sonar and to the animal echolocation employed by some animals, including bats and dolphins.  

By interpreting the sound waves reflected by nearby objects, a person trained to navigate by echolocation can identify the location and sometimes size of nearby objects and use this information to steer around obstacles and travel from place to place. However, since humans make sounds with much lower frequencies and slower rates, human echolocation can only picture comparatively much larger objects than other echolocating animals. -Wikipedia.org

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5. Genetic Chimerism

Typically seen in non-human zoology (but also discovered to a rare extent in humans), a chimera is an animal that has two or more different populations of genetically distinct cells that originated in different zygotes involved with sexual reproduction; if the different cells emerged from the same zygote, it is called a mosaicism.

Chimeras are formed from four parent cells (two fertilized eggs or early embryos fused together). Each population of cells keeps its own character and the resulting animal is a mixture of tissues.  

This condition is either inherited, or it is acquired through the infusion of allogeneic hematopoietic cells during transplantation or transfusion. In nonidentical twins, chimerism occurs by means of blood-vessel anastomoses. The likelihood of offspring being a chimera is increased if it is created via in vitro fertilization. Chimeras can often breed, but the fertility and type of offspring depends on which cell line gave rise to the ovaries or testes; varying degrees of intersexuality may result if one set of cells is genetically female and another genetically male. -Wikipedia.org

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4. Synesthesia

Synesthesia is a neurologically-based condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.

People who report such experiences are known as synesthetes.  In one common form of synesthesia, known as grapheme → color synesthesia or color-graphemic synesthesia, letters or numbers are perceived as inherently colored, while in ordinal linguistic personification, numbers, days of the week and months of the year evoke personalities. In spatial-sequence, or number form synesthesia, numbers, months of the year, and/or days of the week elicit precise locations in space (for example, 1980 may be “farther away” than 1990), or may have a (three-dimensional) view of a year as a map (clockwise or counterclockwise).

Yet another recently identified type, visual motion → sound synesthesia, involves hearing sounds in response to visual motion and flicker. Over 60 types of synesthesia have been reported by people, but only a fraction have been evaluated by scientific research. Even within one type, synesthetic perceptions vary in intensity and people vary in awareness of their synesthetic perceptions. -Wikipedia.org

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3. Mental calculators

Mental calculators are people with a prodigious ability in some area of mental calculation, such as multiplying large numbers or factoring large numbers. Some rare mental calculators are autistic savants, with a narrow area of great skill and poor mental development in other directions, but many are people of normal mental development who have simply developed advanced calculating ability. A good many are also experienced scientists, linguists, writers, and so on.  Mental calculators were in great demand in research centers such as CERN before the advent of modern electronic calculators and computers. See, for instance, the 1983 book The Great Mental Calculators, whose introduction was written by Hans Eberstark.  

The world’s best mental calculators are invited every two years to compete for the Mental Calculation World Cup. On July 2nd, 2008, Alberto Coto García of Spain succeeded Robert Fountain of Great Britain as world champion.  Michael O’Boyle, an American psychologist previously working in Australia and now at Texas Tech University, has recently used MRI scanning of blood flow during mental operation in mathematical prodigies to display startling results. These math prodigies achieve blood flow to parts of the brain responsible for mathematical operations at six to seven times the typical flow (see Cognitive Brain Research, October, 2005). -Wikipedia.org

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2. Eidetic memory

Eidetic or photographic memory is popularly defined as the ability to recall images, sounds, or objects in memory with extreme accuracy and in abundant volume. The word eidetic (pronounced /aɪˈdɛtɨk/) means related to extraordinarily detailed and vivid recall of visual images, and comes from the Greek word εἶδος (eidos), which means “form”.

Eidetic memory can have a very different meaning for memory experts who use the picture elicitation method to detect it.[vague][citation needed]Eidetic memory as observed in children is typified by the ability of an individual to study an image for approximately 30 seconds, and maintain a nearly perfect photographic memory of that image for a short time once it has been removed—indeed such eidetickers claim to “see” the image on the blank canvas as vividly and in as perfect detail as if it were still there. Much like any other memory, the intensity of the recall may be subject to several factors such as duration and frequency of exposure to the stimulus, conscious observation, relevance to the person, etc.

This fact stands in contrast to the general misinterpretation of the term which assumes a constant and total recall of all events.  Some individuals with autism display extraordinary memory, including those with autism spectrum disorders such as Asperger syndrome. Autistic savants are a rarity but they, in particular, show signs of spectacular memory. However, most individuals with a diagnosis of autism do not possess eidetic memory.  

Synesthesia has also been credited as an enhancement of auditory memory, but only for information that triggers a synesthetic reaction. However, some synesthetes have been found to have a more acute than normal “perfect colour” sense with which they are able to match colour shades nearly perfectly after extended periods of time, without the accompanying synesthetic reaction. -Wikipedia.org

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1. Immortal cells

A HeLa cell (also Hela or hela cell) is a cell type in an immortal cell line used in scientific research. It is one of the oldest and most commonly used human cell lines. The line was derived from cervical cancer cells taken from Henrietta Lacks, a patient who eventually died of her cancer on October 4, 1951. The cell line was found to be remarkably durable and prolific as illustrated by its contamination of many other cell lines used in research.

The cells were propagated by George Otto Gey when Lacks died in 1951. This was the first human cell line to prove successful in vitro, which was a scientific achievement with profound future benefit to medical research. Yet Gey freely donated both the cells and the tools and processes his lab developed to any scientists who requested them, simply for the benefit of science. Neither Lacks nor her family gave Gey permission, and at that time, permission was neither required nor customarily sought.

The cells were later commercialized, although never patented in their original form. Then, as now, there was no requirement to inform a patient, or their relatives, about such matters because discarded material, or material obtained during surgery, diagnosis or therapy, was the property of the physician and/or medical institution. This issue and Mrs. Lacks’ situation was brought up in the Supreme Court of California case of Moore v. Regents of the University of California. The court ruled that a person’s discarded tissue and cells are not their property and can be commercialized. -Wikipedia.org

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