Seeing and Smelling

Sight happens near instantaneously. The speed of light is quick, and then the signals to your brain due to proximity are also quick. When we see, we react quickly, it’s not delayed. Which makes sense because if we need to dodge something like an oncoming vehicle or an attacker, we need to do it quick.

Smell on the other hand is slower. It’s volatile compounds diffusing through the air that have to reach our nose. It can be valuable information and point us in the right direction, back to a campground fire for example. Or to the dinner that’s waiting on the table. Smell is slow partially because the physics, but partially because it doesn’t need to be faster.

Now let’s think about distance. Vision can often be extremely short-sighted due to the line of sight. By comparison, bears are thought to be able to smell things that are miles away. I’ve seen claims of upwind bears can smell 20 miles away! Short of being in the flattest spots on earth, rarely is that kind of sight possible.

We’re now in the world of data, but our brains have always been there. They figured out a long time ago, what is needed immediately and what isn’t. What should be long range, and what should be short. When making decisions based on metrics, be sure that you’re using the right tool for taking in the information needed.