Why do paper cuts hurt so much, and what do they have to do with lobsters?

As SciAm's Ferris Jabr explains in the video up top, the short answer is: nociceptors. Many animals have these sensory neurons. Some animals have weird ones. Take naked mole rats, for example — NMRs have mutated sodium channels that limit physiologically "normal" nociceptor firing, thereby blunting sensations of pain.

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Similarly, humans with mutations in Nav1.7 (another important nociceptor sodium channel) have been known to feel no pain whatsoever.

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As for the lobsters, David Foster Wallace would have you know that even these big sea-bugs have nociceptors, and you should maybe bear that in mind the next time you drop one in a pot of boiling water.

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DISCUSSION

djublonskopf

I had pet lobsters for most of my childhood. Eating them now seems like eating a cocker spaniel (which I also wouldn't bring myself to do).

Knowing this, however, my "friends" probably order lobster in restaurants 1000% more often than they would otherwise. My sentimentality towards lobsters (combined with my lousy friends) has been a net loss for them.