Note: RPI put out a press release today (4/29/2010) on my work today so I am reposting this with today's date also.
The idea that the blind have a more acute sense of smell than the sighted is a myth, according to an ongoing study at the Université de Montréal. Vision loss doesn't enhance the sense of smell, researchers say, blind people just pay more attention to how they perceive smells.

"If you enter a room in which coffee is brewing, you will quickly look for the coffee machine. The blind person entering the same room will only have the smell of coffee as information," says Mathilde Beaulieu-Lefebvre, a graduate student at the Université de Montréal Department of Psychology. "That smell will therefore become very important for their spatial representation."
In Writing As Superpower I outlined how writing is for the eye, at the expense of the hands, despite the fact that our brains may have evolved to comprehend speech. We still prefer to 'listen' with our eyes, despite our eyes not having been designed for this.   In Harness The Wild Eye I showed how non-linguistic visual signs are a visual system designed to recognize objects and efficiently react to the information. 

To begin to grasp why using object-like visual symbols for words is a good strategy, consider two alternative strategies besides the objects-for-words one.

In Writing As Superpower we discussed that writing is really for the eye, at the expense of the hands, despite the fact that our brains may have evolved to comprehend speech.  We still prefer to 'listen' with our eyes, despite our eyes not having been designed for this.

The way we write is for the hand but the shapes of our symbols are for the eye.  And that is due to culture.

Communicating with the dead is a standard job requirement for a psychic such as the infamous medium John Edward of the television show Crossing Over who claims to be able to listen to what the deceased family members of his studio audience have to say.  Hearing the thoughts of the dead would appear to be one superpower we certainly do not possess. Surely this superpower must remain firmly in the realm of fiction (Edward included). However, a little thought reveals that we in fact do this all the time. …by simply reading.

In my article on brain waves and consciousness I looked at some research associating gamma wave activity with consciousness. This is, however, a controversial area in that other researchers have found that such gamma activity is also correlated with eye movements known as saccades: these are the small eye movements that the brain edits out so that we do not perceive the world as a blur as we switch focus. So, are brain gamma waves merely a byproduct of saccadic movements or are they correlated with consciousness or, potentially, both?
Our everyday visual perceptions rely upon unfathomably complex computations carried out by tens of billions of neurons across over half our cortex. In spite of this, it does not “feel” like work to see. Our cognitive powers are, in stark contrast, “slow and painful,” and we have great trouble with embarrassingly simple logic tasks.
Specially medicated contact lenses loaded with vitamin E can keep glaucoma medicine near the eye — where it can treat the disease — almost 100 times longer than possible with current commercial lenses, scientists reported today at the ACS National Meeting.

Glaucoma is second only to cataracts as the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in the world. It affects almost 67 million people. Eye drops that relieve the abnormal build-up of pressure inside the eye that occurs in glaucoma, are a mainstay treatment.
Researchers writihg in Proceedings of the Royal Society B say they have made a discovery in understanding the origins of human vision.  They say they have determined which genetic 'gateway,' or ion channel, in the hydra is involved in light sensitivity.  Hydra are simple animals that, along with jellyfish, belong to the phylum cnidaria. Cnidarians first emerged 600 million years ago.

Complex traits with components of individual evolutionary histories are always more difficult to understand but a gene called opsin is present in vision among vertebrate animals and is responsible for a different way of seeing than that of animals like flies. The vision of insects emerged later than the visual machinery found in hydra and vertebrate animals.
I really like this optical illusion made by Japanese artist Hajime Ouchi. It's just so simple - just black and white rectangles - and yet has the illusion of both movement and depth. Reminds me a little of some Vasarely images but his were mainly warped spaces - more optical-candy rather than optical-high!