Tongue untied: The hidden manipulator

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What can manipulate, sort, hold, move, flex, harden, soften, define, gain weight when you do, grow, be soft and silky, become rough, be strong and be sensitive? Some scientists want to use it as a biometric authenticator. If you guessed a tongue, you’d be right! I purposely didn’t list tying knots because I knew it would give it away.

What the heck is a biometric authenticator you ask? With all these capabilities, you would think tongues are all the same. But no, they are as unique as our fingerprints. Tucked safely into our mouths, they would be hard to forge. I know where your thoughts have gone and I can assure you that mine went there too. Tucked safely into our mouths until someone cuts them out!?! I saw those movies where they cut the bank presidents finger off to get into the safe. I doubt I’ll ever be wealthy or famous enough that anyone would need my tongue. But no worries if you are wealthy or famous, we’ve successfully transplanted a tongue in 2003. It could give you a whole new identity. Or you can live without your tongue, your words would sound different, you could still breathe and still eat.

Try this … buy some trail mix. Put one peanut, one chocolate chip and one raisin on your tongue. Your tongue can sort them and move just the chocolate chip to between your top and bottom teeth where 110 lbs of force come down without getting itself bit. (alright, 99.9% of the time it won’t get bit). How does our tongue automatically know how far to pull back to fit snugly between our teeth on all sides and still hold the peanut and raisin securely without getting bit? How does it know?

The almost 8,000 taste buds (inside your cheeks, on your tongue, roof of your mouth and in your throat) will give you the sweet chocolate taste and then your tongue will push it down your throat. All while still holding the raisin and peanut in place until you are ready for the next one. If you accidentally get a piece of lint or for goodness sakes a hair, your tongue can sort that for you to pluck out … all while still holding the good stuff. Just one more amazing part of our body.

We stick our tongue out to be silly or tease but in Tibet it is a greeting and I think it sounds like such a friendly place. Speaking of friendly, I do like how we use our tongue to kiss and that is another story in itself.

Top photo courtesy of Wikipedia