Imagine every time you hear the word tree, you suddenly taste strawberries. Or the word Monday evokes red and the letter T is male, light blue, trustworthy and loyal. Welcome to the fascinating world of synaesthesia. Once dismissed as an imaginary condition, synaesthesia is currently a hotbed of scientific research.
A couple of weeks ago I asked students in one of my classes whether they were early risers or night owls. Almost all identified as one or the other. But is either being up at dawn or burning the midnight oil simply habit, or is something else going on?
Why call a valued assistant a ‘right-hand man’? Why does an awkward dancer have ‘two left feet’? And why, in times gone by, were left-handers thought to be possessed by the devil? Throughout the ages left-handers have been stigmatised and persecuted. But it turns out ‘handedness’ is determined before you even leave the womb.
The clergymen of Överkalix, Sweden, kept meticulous records of births, deaths, family linages, and crop harvests for generations. Using their data, scientists have discovered that your DNA can depend on your ancestor's gluttonous excesses or frugal famines.