Study their behaviors. Observe their territorial boundaries. Leave their habitat as you found it. Report any signs of intelligence.

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Monday, March 08, 2021

Subconscious Mammalian Thermal Footprint Memory

When I return to a spot that I had recently occupied (on a chair, bed, etc.) I don't particularly notice that it's still warm. But if I settle onto a spot that is warm from some other mammal recently recently being there, it's keenly apparent. (The most palpable version of this is when you sit on recently-occupied toilet seat.)

I bet that humans have a subconscious memory of where they have recently left thermal footprints. So we subconsciously discount our own warm spots as uninteresting, but it bubbles up to our consciousness when our backside detects a potential interloper.

A redditor opines that it's because when you're sitting in your own spot you're in thermal equilibrium. But that doesn't explain the differential between self vs. other, because the feeling is quite different if the person who left the seat two minutes earlier was you vs. not you.

I noticed it again this morning when my dog and I both got up from bed at the same time. He'd been laying near my feet on top of my thick comforter. When I returned to bed after a few minutes, the spot recently warmed directly by a 230lb mammal felt unremarkable. But the spot recently warmed through a comforter by a 35lb mammal felt very warm.

Do other people notice this, or am I a mutant? My family thinks I'm crazy for "smelling" food after I remove it from the microwave, but I explain to them that my snout is a very sensitive heat detector, allowing me to check my food without burning a finger. And when raising three daughters I found that I could measure forehead temperature with my hand to ±1°F. 

My other superpower is recognizing voices, especially celebrity voiceovers. I'm constantly amazed that people watching a show with me don't immediately recognize many of the voices like I do. Alas, none of these superpowers are very good for crime-fighting...

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