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.


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


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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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.