Most of us are familiar with Spider-Man, also called Spiderman. It’s the story of Peter Parker, an ordinary teen bitten by a radioactive spider. The venom in the spider’s bite transmitted mutagenic enzymes, giving Parker the same powers as the spider, but on a greatly magnified scale. Parker possessed superhuman strength, resiliency, balance, and the ability to cling to precarious surfaces without falling.

Not only did Parker have fantastical powers when it came to scaling buildings and flying through the city skies with his strong-as-steel threads, he possessed an even greater power … Spidey Sense. When danger lurked, he would say, “My Spider sense is telling me,” and then it would prove to be correct. It’s interesting that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko would give a comic book hero not only superhuman physical powers, but what some would consider to be a supernatural ability.

When we say, “My Spidey sense is tingling,” everyone knows what we mean. It’s when you feel the hair on the back of your neck stand up. It’s when an involuntary and uncomfortable shiver runs down your spine. It’s when you go someplace and immediately feel like you’ve got to get away from there as fast as you can, for reasons you can’t logically explain. More often than not, we say, “My Spidey sense is tingling,” when we feel like someone is trying to hide something from us, something that they know we won’t like at all.

Of course, “Spidey sense” sounds a lot cooler than, “My intuition is telling me,” but that’s really what we’re talking about. And now the U.S. Navy wants to investigate this strange phenomenon, this ability to perceive danger before it shows itself, the uncanny sensation in the gut that creates a sense of urgency that one’s very survival is at stake.

The Navy’s proposed study stems from tales of soldiers who have experienced strange premonitions on the Afghanistan and Iraqi battlefields. These eerie forebodings are likely related to what’s known as the “abdominal mind,” a complex array of nerves within the solar plexus. These nerves interact with the subconscious mind, which constantly processes data all around you, including data which the conscious mind is unaware of. The abdominal mind receives the signals from the subconscious mind, and relays them to you as perceptible physical or mental sensations. The one we’re all familiar with is the hair on the back of the neck standing up. But it may also be a general sense of unease, an unshakeable feeling that “something isn’t right.”

According to the Office of Naval Research, “Research in human pattern recognition and decision-making suggest that there is a ‘sixth sense’ through which humans can detect and act on unique patterns without consciously and intentionally analyzing them.” The scientists who manage the program, commonly refer to this unexplained phenomenon as feeling one’s “Spidey sense” tingling, a direct reference to Spider-Man’s amazing intuition.

Maybe the Navy will learn from this study that intuition is a very real ability, that it goes beyond environmental clues, that it extends into the metaphysical realm. But for now, I’m just glad they’re looking for a way to help our soldiers sense the hidden danger that lies ahead, and to be able to protect themselves and others before it’s too late.

For more information on the “feeling in the gut” sensation, you can search online for articles about intuition and how it’s connected to the solar plexus,  occasionally referred to as the abdominal brain.