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Reference Sensations

For a methodical discussion about sensation we identify several reference sensations drawn from everyday human experience.  Reference sensations are standards from which all perceptions are judged and recognized.  These familiar sensations are mathematically represented by numbers called constants. They are visually represented using the icons shown below.   When you see these icons in following articles, you can click on them for more detail.

Reference sensations are exemplified by this photo of a bleeding finger showing the colour red.

The foregoing list of reference sensations includes seeing blood. Does that seem too crude? Well, consider that the first calculations linking heat and motion were developed by Julius Robert von Mayer, the physician on a Dutch three-mast sailing ship. His calculations were sparked by careful observations he made while practicing medicine on a voyage through the Southeast Asian archipelago. He wrote, “In the summer of 1840, in the course of the bloodlettings I undertook in Java on recently arrived Europeans, I made the observation that the blood taken from the vein in the arm showed almost without exception a startlingly bright red coloration.”1Kenneth Caneva, Robert Mayer and the Conservation of Energy, page 236. Princeton University Press, 1993. This surprising visual sensation was combined with his thinking about climate, body heat and respiration to deduce a law for the conservation of energy. And today his story spurs our use of reference sensations – like seeing blood – to parse experience into various classes of sensation.

References
1Kenneth Caneva, Robert Mayer and the Conservation of Energy, page 236. Princeton University Press, 1993.