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Teach Yourself to Echolocate: A beginner’s guide to navigating with sound (atlasobscura.com)
571 points by zebraman on Oct 13, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 105 comments

This article reminds me of how it felt to be on the internet as a child. It seemed like this magical place where around every corner there was hidden an alchemic recipe to achieve something magical, if only you knew how to search in the right places.

Well said. For me the 90s and early 2000s internet was completely magical. My fondest memories of my teens was finally having a computer in my room and the freedom to stay up late and explore the online universe. I met a lot of people and saw the advent of a lot of new things.

I wonder if that's going to happen for my kids. Today's internet feels so highly commercialized. All the new exciting discoveries are in the form of profit-driven silicon valley products with no humanity or soul.

I may very well be wrong. This is all emotion based and I really don't have concrete evidence. I'm probably falling into a fit of nostalgia.

The sad thing for me is that a lot of those strange, eclectic sites are still there, only they became really hard to find. Thanks to Google and other search engines prioritising recency and Brands (with a capital) in all results, the eclectic is penalised to the point of near invisibility.

There was never a point to them, but they were hugely interesting. Today there's no point bothering as it would be gone forever a month after posted to twitter or a Facebook group now bloody everything has to have a stream or timeline. So akin to a chilling effect it invisibly promotes things that have releases. Products.

Nostalgia is some of it I'm sure, but I really do think there's something more concrete there too.

I don't know that Google was ever the thing to find them. Various curated lists and word-of-mouth were how they spread. But yeah, the signal-to-noise ratio is pretty terrible now for anything that isn't a ho-hum "conventional" query. On the other hand, the sheer volume of information has to count for something. You can reach a greater breadth and depth for directed learning online than in the 90's where it was mostly undirected novelty.

> I don't know that Google was ever the thing to find them. Various curated lists and word-of-mouth were how they spread.

There was a period in the mid-'90s at least when you could find really interesting personal pages by punching any given topic into your search engine of choice. It may actually have been petering out by the time Google arrived in '98, though.

google.com/search?q=human+echolocation brings up a ton of related stuff.

The thing is "what do you type into the search engine." I, for one, would never think to type in any of probably tens of thousands of topics that, having seen, I think are awesome.

Which are your favorites?

I like this page, on creating 3d 'holograms' by hand:


Oh man, amasci.com was one of my favorite Magical Internet Places back in the day; I can't believe I'd totally forgotten about it.

"the time for jacking around with Tesla coils and ball lightning in the garage is over." -Abe, PRIMER

Few additions http://amasci.com/news.html The Trafficwaves article made the WSJ, even with video. And Crown Flash (leaping sundogs) is now all over the place (see my upcoming bit on TV show Strange Evidence.) Magnetic analogy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tH-CAhtXBfQ

Fortunately (unfortunately?) I only posted examples of my somewhat-kid-friendly magic. Nobody died in microwave oven accidents. That plus a couple of minor inventions (made public as a test to see how fast the idea-thieves would pounce on them.) None of my frightening demos using vacuum pumps and Spellman supplies. Well, I guess I did write about our hypergun which fired a small plastic slug through a clay block twelve inches thick (a spinoff of the very first quarter-shrinker capacitor bank,) and no little kids yet tried building one: http://amasci.com/amateur/capexpt.html#shrink

An unexamined backwater is at http://amasci.com/weird/wtext.html

I still haven't tried out the giant version of Lord Armstrong's water-bridge, from an eyewitness report where a liquid "snake" several feet thick was extending itself thousands of feet across desert land during a thunderstorm. If such things are possible, then an HV supply of a few hundred watts and a couple hundred kilovolts should produce something similar (the recent water-bridge experiments use 10 to 20KV supplies at under ten watts, a 2cm bridge, a mm or two in diameter.) Rainwater or ddw on very clean sand? Needs a big Cockroft-Walton diode stack http://amasci.com/freenrg/wasser.html

And the infamous invisible wall at the 3M factory, recently someone claims to have seen an example caused by electrodes connected to a reversed pole-pig transformer, where coins would bounce off the empty space. This is silghtly conceivable: a corona in air may develop a stable annular double-layer with a significant space-charge and pressure-gradient of air. But would a metal object bounce off? Or just short it out? Plasmas do tend to avoid cold bulk metal surfaces (Tesla managed to make an opaque "neon sign" with a metal tube rather than glass, but skeptics refused to believe it was real. The plasma in near-vacuum can travel many inches through thin metal tubes without leaping to the metal! Try it, it's really weird: pipes full of glowing "electricity" rather than water.)

Speaking of PRIMER, did they actually base the plot on meissner maglev "null coils," placed in a circle rather than parallel rows? Then, put it all inside a "One Atmosphere Plasma Globe" full of argon? But then, where do platinum catalytic converters figure in that? Or maybe they were just huddling inside a styrofoam version of the USS Eldridge hull, covered with active magnetic shielding coils, but not turning invisible.


I remember Fjord Of The Net Vikings. Dan's Gallery of the Grotesque. I was too young for BBS culture but then I found the Hotline protocol, which gave me a new horizon of musical styles and I even made a music video with some random German dude by mailing CDs across the pond.

Just last night I remembered micromusic.net which introduced me to chiptunes and continues as a ghostship.

It looks like it hasn't been updated in years, but http://www.powerlabs.org/index.html has some cool content

FWIW, everybody from his forum eventually made their way to 4hv.org.

not OP but this is what i thought of instantly:


and this page in particular:


wiby.me is fun.

> I wonder if that's going to happen for my kids.

I've got a four month old. By the time she's in third or fourth grade, I expect that VR will give her the same kinds of experiences that I had with the web at that age. What made the web exciting wasn't just the fact that it was run by amateurs, it was the fact that there was just an enormous amount of possibility waiting to be explored where we genuinely didn't know the answers.

I actually think the web itself may go back into that kind of phase again after a couple more iterations of Moore's Law make programming easy enough for people who wouldn't be able to do it today, especially when combined with blockchain opening up new kinds of relationships that people can have with one another. The web currently has some issues, but I think a lot of people have given up on it prematurely without taking into consideration the new kinds of experiences the recent and upcoming improvements to the underlying infrastructure are going to make possible.

Please don't be upset that I say this, because you seem to be earnest, but your comment reads like a parody. "VR" and "blockchain" and other buzzwords are new tech o ligues so they necessary are going to be great and revolutionary (in some ill specified way) and therefore will provide "experiences" and "revolutionise the way we do x". Why, you sound like an SV "evangelist" :^)

is this a serious comment?

i am not that old and not that young, and VR has been "around the corner" for 10 to 15 years already. even with all the hype and the amount of people that have been feverishly working on it, there's basically nothing to show for it. it will come eventually, but not in any useful form anytime soon.

what does moore's law have to do with ease of programming?

blockchain has no relevance to the common person.

>is this a serious comment?

Is this a serious comment? VR isn't around the corner, it's here. I'm sitting in my living room right now looking at the vive lighthouses on the wall, and my wife and I frequently use VR for all sorts of things.

Exactly. Based on what already exists, my best guess is that it will actually be good after another 2 - 3 iterations of Moore's Law and another 10 years of software and hardware architecture improvements.

It's better than good now. It's incredible now.

> my wife and I frequently use VR for all sorts of things.

for what? you didn't give any examples except the demonstration of the existence of VR products and VR "stuff".

I think you're totally right that it feels like that wonderful old Web, the one that felt like a magical place, a weird place, seems to have vanished.

For me, some of that's moved on to YouTube. Even today, I find channels full of crazy stuff, brilliant stuff, beautiful stuff, educational stuff, stuff I'd never even heard before, just randomly stumbling around. It's hard to find them, what with the suggestions throwing only the lowest-common-denominator version of the stuff I get baited into clicking on, but sometimes I manage to run across it.

>* My fondest memories of my teens was finally having a computer in my room and the freedom to stay up late and explore the online universe*

This is something i think about regarding my kids... specifically that my experience was free and unfettered - theirs is contolled, walled and full of ads and bullshit.

No, I think that very sadly you're 100% right. They won. The internet is commercial. The internet is the corporation's, not the people's. The early, magical, futuristic Internet is gone for good. All we have now is a bastardized version of that ideal of global network.

It's not gone. Just underground/waiting.

So true! This reminded me of the first time I came upon Conway's Doomsday Algorithm for telling what day of the week a certain date is.


The method given on that site for computing the component that comes from the last 2 digits of the year can be made a lot easier for mental calculation. I'll give some known improvements below, and then offer one of my own that is noticeably simpler.

In the following, let Y = the last two digits of the year (e.g., 18 for 2018), and let N be the value we are trying to be compute. We only actually need N mod 7, but I'm going to leave out the reduction mod 7 in the equations to reduce clutter.

The simplest way to compute N is simply:

  N = Y + Y//4
I'll use Python3-like arithmetic and pseudocode in this comment, so "//" is integer division (with x for times to avoid accidental italics).

To keep the numbers smaller during mental calculation, people have developed alternatives. The one given in that link is this:

  N = Y // 12
  N += Y % 12
  N += (Y % 12) // 4
An interesting alternative, called the "odd+11" method, is given on the Wikipedia article [1]:

  if odd(Y): Y += 11
  Y = Y // 2
  if odd(Y): Y += 11
  N = -Y
For the last step there, N = -Y, it will usually be easier and clearer to reduce Y mod 7 before doing that N = -Y. Also, given Y, sometimes the simplest way to get -Y mod 7 is to just note what you have to add to Y to get to a multiple of 7. For example, if when you get to that step Y = 20, note that adding 1 to Y gives a multiple of 7, so -20 mod 7 = 1.

Anyway, here's my method. It keeps the numbers smaller--if you reduce mod 7 aggressively never more than 12--at the cost of slightly more branches in the logic.

Let the last two digits of the year be T and U, so Y = 10 T + U.

  N = 2 x T
  if odd(T): N += 3
  N += U
  if odd(T):
    N += (U+2)//4
    N += U//4
That if...else is taking into account the number of leap years that have occurred in the current decade (not including the year T0). When doing mental calculation, it is probably easier just to remember that if T is odd, at 1 if U >= 2 and add another 1 if U >= 6, and if T is even same except at 4 and 8.

Here are examples, using some years from the link, with parenthetical explanations for some of the numbers:

2018: T=1, U=8. 2x1(T) + 3(T is odd) + 8(U) + 2(U>=2,6) = 1 mod 7.

1929: T=2, U=9. 2x2(T) + 9(U) + 2(U>=4,8) = 1 mod 7.

1999: T=9, U=9. 2x2(T%7) + 3(T is odd) + 2(U%7) + 2(U>=2,6) = 4 mod 7. Note that I reduced U and T mod 7 inline when using them. You can do this as long as when checking odd/even you use the original T, and when adding in the leap year correction you use the original U. E.g., for 99, you could compute it like it was 22, except you have to add the 3 for odd T, and use 9 for the U>=2,6 check.

1982: T=8, U=2. 2x1(T%7) + 2(U) = 4 mod 7.

1969: T=6, U=9. 2x(-1)(T%7) + 2(U%7) + 2(U>=4,8) = 2 mod 7.

Some might find changing the leap year handling to this a little easier instead of just remembering the 2,6 or 4,8 +1 points. Change the if...else to this:

  N += U//4
  if odd(T) and N%4 >= 2: N += 1
E.g., compute the leap year adjustment with U//4 regardless of whether T is odd or even, and if U is in {2, 3, 6, 7} and T is odd, add one more.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doomsday_rule#The_%22odd_+_11%...

Bonus: here's how to compute the day of the year from month/day. First I'll show how independent of the Doomsday stuff, and then show how you can use the Doomsday month number stuff to reduce memorization for the day of year stuff.

The basic idea is to compute the year day for the "0th" day of the month, then add the day of the month. For example, today, October 13th is the 286th day of the year, because October 0th is the 273rd day of the day, so 13 days past that is the 286th.

The simplest way, short of memorizing the 0th day of each month directly (or the 1st day...if you are going to take this approach might as well do the 1st, not the 0th), is to memorize how far off the actual 0th day is from what the 0th would be if all months were exactly 30 days.

Those differences are, for the 12 months:

  0, -1, 1, 0, 0, 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 4, 4
If F[m] refers to the the m'th entry in that list, 1 <= m <= 12, then the 0th day for month m is 30(m-1) + F[m]. E.g., for October, m = 10, so 30x(10-1) + F[10] = 30x9+3 = 273.

If it is a leap year, add one more day for dates after February 29.

The F table has enough structure that it is not unreasonable to just memorize it.

For m >= 4, F[m] = (6x(m-4))//10. If you round toward -∞ instead of 0 when dividing, that works for m >= 3. It's probably harder to remember this than to just remember the table.

Let M[m] = the month factor from the Doomsday algorithm:

  3, 0, 0, 4, 9, 6, 11, 8, 5, 10, 7, 12
Then F[m] = -(M[m] + 2 x m + 2) mod 7. Just remember that -1 <= F[m] <= 4, so you can pick the right range when reducing mod 7.

For example, let's do July 20th, 1969, the day of the first Moon landing. July is the 7th month, and the month factor for that in the Doomsday algorithm is 11, so we have F[7] = -(11 + 2x7 + 2) = 1 mod 7, so F[m] = 1, and July 0th is 30x(7-1)+1 = 181, and so July 20th is the 201st day of the year.

BTW, if you find F[] easier to memorize than M[], you reverse the formula given above for computing F from M, to go the other way.

M[m] = -(F[m] + 2 x m + 2) mod 7.

While I'm here, one more Doomsday observation.

If a given year, Y, has year number N, then the next year with the same year number is:

• Y+6 if Y%4 == 0 or 1

• Y+11 if Y%4 == 2

• Y+5 if Y%4 == 3

(but only if that does not cross a century boundary).

The day of weeks within a century go on a 28 year cycle. Within any 28 consecutive years in a century, each of the 7 possible year number values occurs 4 times, once on a year with Y%4 == 0, once on a Y%4 == 1 year, and so on.

If you start with Y%4 == 0 year, the gaps between consecutive years with the same year number are 6, 11, 6, 5, which brings you back to the Y%4 == 0 year for the next 28 year cycle. You visit the years in the order 0, 2, 1, 3 mod 4 stepping this way.

If you memorize this pattern, it is easier to answer questions about when years or dates with specific properties happen. For example, let's say you want to know when there will next be a Friday the 13th in October.

Assuming that there will be another one this century, so using the century factor of 2 (for 20xx), you can work out that in this century Friday October 13 occurs when the year number is 0. Such a year was 2000, and 00 is a Y%4 == 0 year, so Friday October 13th occurs in 2000, 2000+6=2006, 2006+11=2017, 2017+6=2023, and then 2023+5 brings is to the 2028, the next 28 year cycle. So the next Friday October 13 is 2023.

BTW, the first Y in a century with year number N and with Y%4 == 0 is (3xN%7)x4.

If you don't care about starting from a Y%4 == 0 year, then it is easiest probably to just memorize the first year with year number 0, 1, 2, ..., 6 in a century:

  0, 1, 2, 3, 9, 4, 5
and then add multiples of 28 to get to where you want to be. E.g., if you were trying to find the first time your birthday falls on a Thursday after 2040, and figured out you need year number 4, that table would tell you 2009 is such a year, and the 28 year cycles would tell you 2037, 2065, and 2093 are other such years, so you'd probably go to 2037 and work forward from there. 36 is a 1%4 year, so the next with the same year number is 2043, and you are done!

Ah, I had no idea about this one!

Bonus: I just learned the word proleptic...

That’s why I like HN. I visit only a few news sites per day and HN usually brings a treat that I never would have stumbled on myself.

I do like the commenting on this site but is there a way to collapse comments without downvoting? The fact that I have to scroll halfway down the page to find comments actually relevant to the article is a major flaw with HN's threading system.

The [-] in the comment header is clickable and will collapse the comment and any replies in its thread.

I’ve been practicing this for years and it’s quite useful. It’s not like seeing of course, but I’m able to get an idea of a room size and material hard/softness. Useful for not walking into walls in the dark or finding something when I don’t want to wake my SO.

In general I’ve always been into sound and I think a lot of people have better hearing than they think, but never learned to hear well. I find it odd that we have such prominent childhood learning focused around sight (shapes, colors, etc) but barely teach children anything about hearing beyond animal sounds. I’m not advocating golden ears courses for kindergartens, but listening skills can be quite useful in lots of situations, not the least of which is situational awareness.

Situational awareness goes way down when people walk around with headphones with loud music. I notice it on a lot of people and how they behave in traffic. Just listening to things around you can be quite interesting as you move around. I never wear headphones for this reason.

On interesting thing is to open the windows (and sunroof) in an electric car, whilst driving in built up areas < 20 mph/35 km/h, you hear a lot more what is going on (including insects and birds) and it is a very different experience.

On a motorcycle one is much more connected to the environment and I think that is one reason people like them. Its fun to come down into a hollow and feel the temperature change. Smells are also easily detected. Sound, on the other hand, is mostly the motorcycle noise (which can be fun too). Reading this comment made me think it would be really interesting to try out an electric motorcycle.

I heartily recommend trying one. I ride a ZeroSR and it's just a different experience, riding sedately along country lanes allows you to appreciate things in a whole new way. It takes some getting used to though, first few times I stopped it was eerie being able to hear nothing but the traffic next to me rather then the bike itself.

An electric motorcycle probably emphasizes the need for a very well-designed helmet. At 60+mph, wind noise from the helmet could still drown out environmental noise.

Or a bicycle or e-bike. Those are also pretty quiet and fun to ride.

In low traffic/back roads on my bike, I can tell if there's a car coming up behind me without having to twist around. Doesn't work if there's other cars drowning it out, and I definitely wouldn't recommend relying on that in most cases, but it's neat.

Bicycles and e-bikes are great. Would love to have a high powered e-bikes/very small e-motorcycle that could go on the freeway (ie., be able to cross the bay bridge. Have yet to see such a thing is America.

I've always said that one of the most rewarding sensations on when riding for fun is the access to the variety of smells and sounds and as someone mentioned, a well designed helmet makes a world of difference.

I wear headphones when I'm out most of the time, but at least half the time I don't have anything playing (and a third of the time it would be an audio book, not a constant noise like most music). It's still a big difference in how connected I feel to my surroundings. I'm not sure it's related to sound, as my headphones don't dampen much. I think it's just the expectation of people when they see someone with headphones and it allows me not to interact as much.

I don't often listen to loud music in headphones, but if I have headphones on where I need situation awareness, I'll be quick to remove one --- usually the one I expect to be closest to whatever I might need to hear (most often car traffic).

Windows down in a quiet (electric) car is pretty amazing too, even in a traffic jam.

It's fun to train your sense/brain. Since I started learning music, I try to detect harmonics in mechanics (train, car).

Also I wonder how much of this will come to you naturally if you live in the wild. You rely on so many minute signals ..

What do you consider good hearing skills to practice, except echolocating?

One of my hobbies is birding: specifically going out and trying to count all the birds I can find down to a species level. This requires a good ear to do well. Many times I find myself closing my eyes and pausing all bodily motion to really listen intently for the low chips of a sparrow, or distant drumming of a woodpecker.

As one example, I’ve seen kids develop perfect pitch growing up in highly musical environments. I think it’s easier for them to learn it than adults, but it becomes a lifelong skill.

I think relative pitch is much more useful (e.g. identifying harmonies and notes relative to a tonic center).

(Perfect pitch here) Hehe how is it "much more useful"? When I hear music, I simultaneously know what all the notes and chords are. That's what hearing music is for me. I can't imagine not having it, as an improvising musician. Hearing a note or chord without knowing exactly what is is?! People without it somehow manage, but it is like flying blind.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that for folks who process in absolute pitch, it can be harder to think in terms of function, to deal with things that are out of tune, and to transpose. Like, for me, I barely care what key something is in other than to get started playing.

Oh it definitely is like a a sort of blindness.

I love music, and the best I can do pitchwise is remember a few references. So, it is like one or two perfect pitches. I worked at recall on those... hard. It takes an immersive memory to do, and it is like a little movie of that time and place. When I do that, I can get a note from a song I know well.

And I know what that note is on the scale. Good as it gets. Strange, I can often tell same or different too, even whem some time has passed, but mapping notes to pitches heard is hard.

The other one, btw, is 1khz. The Apple 2 beep. Similar memory. And both are fond ones.

Otherwise, I have great discrimination. Can pluck parts out a total mess, usually no problem. And I hear technical details well. Production, essentially, or signals in the noise.

I knew a girl with perfect pitch. Her recall of things and a conversation encouraged me to try, and it worked, but so much effort! And only for a couple, and those are shaky at best!

But, I have just a taste, and that is enough to validate what you put here. No way can I just pluck chords out of something without first getting some references. It's a sort of build up. Do a listen, tag some notes, do it again, tag some more, and over some iterations note values, chords become clear. And that sticks while I have the head space. Let it slip, and a lot slips. In that space, I could play, improvise then.

She could often just listen and write down whole phrases! Of course it was pretty great having her around. I could just ask for one, and she would nail it. Thanks!

A lot of how people manage is by feel and other cues. Or, they just do not improvise to the degree possible. Or, they do not care, instead just working from where things are at. Say, a fifth up would be good... doing that only needs a sense of the scale in play.

In any case, I do not agree relative pitch is intrinsically more useful. I would not value it that way.

What is generally more useful is being able to really listen. I do that and it comes in very handy for testing, various electromechanical tasks. Over time, I have gotten really good at being able to play sound back in my head that I have heard in the past.

On odd artifact is playing that radio snippet game. If I have heard the tune, I can often get it in very short, sometimes sub second bits of audio. All comes down to what is in that snip. Vocals are easiest. Even a bit, and the map to the person lights right up.

Or, a mechanism. If it is doing anything odd, I hear that and know what normal is to good precision.

Discrimination is broadly useful, maybe most useful in the broadest sense, I would argue. At least there is a strong case for it.


Bats fly blind tho.

This is false. Bats are not blind.

No bat species are blind. Microbats have poor visual acuity but their vision is on par with a human's.

Reference: Tuttle's work

And that's what I get for relying on "blind as a bat" folklore without checking it.

Thank you.

I must now ascertain the veracity of the “as poor as a church mouse” trope.

You should now go donate some bucks to Merlin Tuttle's Bat Conservation for your sins (https://merlintuttlesbatconservation.kindful.com/) ;) since they are by far the coolest mammal. Humans are OK too I guess... I have a really hard time believing any of these echolocation claims by individuals. I can see it maybe coming about if you're visually disabled and over a very long period of time it comes about as your visual cortex atrophies with no stimulation, but otherwise, even if you close your eyes and deeply focus, there are just so many extraneous noises in daily life that would be hard to integrate into a single synthesized whole that is actually meaningful in any kind of physical displacement decisions.

I didn't even know about that trope? Is that even a real expression or did you just make it up? Makes zero sense.

"Blind as a bat" is a common expression in English. Free Dictionary says it's been around since the 1500s, and theorizes that people thought their erratic flight was due to poor eyesight. https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/blind+as+a+bat

I was referring to the "poor as a church mouse" expression actually but thanks for the etymology regarding the other expression - sounds plausible.

Ah, yeah. It's not so common these days. I associate it with the 19th/early 20th century, I guess? Not sure exactly, though.

I'd say it goes back a little further than christians and oblates. Surely, most temples are kept well clean so that a mouse wouldn't find much to eat. The church tending to the poor can be associated as well as some kinds of church striving for purity.

Puritan, poor, pure, you get the gist. Actually, these are not said to be related, with peh₂w- and pewh₂- reconstructed, respectively. But in my humble opinion, "humble" could semanticly connectboth. peh₂w-, whence poor* and few, is also the root to pupil and puberty, via Latin pūpa/pūpus. On that note, words for orphan have been surprisingly productive, orphan supposedly giving German "Arbeit" - work, its origin unsure but perhaps connected to orpheus. Maybe orphans nominally under the care of the "father" are the mice in question. Mouse is a humbling diminutive, at least in German. In the pied piper, children are compared to mice. Boy can mean male servant (it's root is not compare to these here, though, might still be in an older layer of the languages' roots). Spanish puta is still unexplained, but Portuguese has puto (boy), Italian puttus (child) - said to be cognate with, no not pupa, but purus. Spanish and Portuguese also have moço, moço (boy, girl) of "unknown origin". But they do use rat related words for mouse instead, while muro is archaic. Baltic languages have instead pele (mouse), from pel- (grey, alternatively pelh), whence also pale. Surely, grey mouse is a synonym for plain, which is one of the glosses found for poor. Plain again is from pleh₂-, which derives several words for thin, flat, further tame* and perhaps also plague. Plage, Blage is a dysphemism for children in German. A page is a young servant in French and a page of paper is plain and flat. mew- also derives a sense of small, but whether that pertains to mouse or not is debatable. There's also mey which could be confused, meaning e.g. to change. Another spanish word for boy is muchacho, from mocho (mutilated, incomplete; hornless; having a hypocritical and ostentatious faith; cut short; bald headed), of uncertain origin). Then compare patch, patchy hair to page or Russian plóskij (flat, plain, level, tame, trivial). I mean, chico (boy) probably relates as much to chick as mouse to maid. Mouse rather rhymes with house (the house mouse), therefore compare house, husband and husbandry. I have no idea where this might lead, possibly astray, though.

I'm quite confident that church mice are still poor, though they may be richer than street mice. :D

You cannot develop perfect pitch as an adult (really some time around six - eight years of age seems to be the cutoff). You can develop really good relative pitch at any point though, which is still tremendously valuable.

Listen to Morse code.

Recognizing intervals. There's a lot of free apps for this.

For anyone wanting to see a master example of echolocation see this short video: https://youtu.be/TeFRkAYb1uk

I remembering learning about this boy in high school. In the posted article, he suggests that non-blind humans can simulate the handicap by wearing a blindfold.

For someone who isn't blind, learning how to do this is very difficult. This is the kind of skill that rewires your brain and comes out of necessity rather than desire. By actually being blind, you get 10,000 hours of practice in around two years. Even if you practiced this an hour a day blindfolded, it would take decades to get 10,000 hours of practice.

Have you ever tried? I find the article's description a bit too advanced for a first try. I have personally had success finding walls or large furniture after only a couple minutes of very slowly walking around a room and clicking my tongue (higher pitched) with my eyes closed. True, I probably won't ever be able to ride a bike, but it's sufficient to quickly test out basic echolocation. I have done many trials with friends and everyone is able to hear at least a subtle difference when standing directly in front of a wall as opposed to a few feet away.

Agreed. I taught myself basic echo location several months back after reading about Daniel Kish and being curious.

It doesn't need any external equipment to get the basics. To start out simply, just close your eyes in a (very) dark room and get the hang of the different sounds when a wall is close in front of you (couple inches) vs not.

Once you can clearly detect that difference, start extending from there. It definitely works ok.

I was referring to full blown echolocation as with Ben Underwood, not "basic echolocation".

I instantly thought of this video as well. Definitely an extraordinary human. Sadly, he passed away a few years ago. Warning, here be feels: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnouXX1meso

I didn’t know he passed. What a remarkable person. Thanks for the update.

Coincidentally, I watched this last week and found it highly informative, entertaining.

This is incredible. Know if any research that’s booked farther in here?

I recommend this excellent podcast on the same topic https://www.thisamericanlife.org/544/batman

My technique is caveman compared to the article, but I habitually roll down the windows before I back out of a parking spot, so I can listen for as well as look for anything that might be in the way. I think I started this after our son was born, born of an increasing mindfulness of kids and their associates (balls, toys, pets.)

In the military, I at some point learned that listening was at least as important as looking. A lot of the senior guys on their 3rd or 4th tour would patrol without a helmet -- it messed with their hearing.

Opening the window a crack is instinctual for me now whenever I first hear a siren on the road, so I can better figure out where it's coming from -- it can give me several extra seconds to plan if and how I need to get out of the way of emergency services. I highly recommend it!

Very good point! I happen to roll down windows every time I start up my car for another reason (the air trapped inside the car while it's parked, probably under sunshine, doesn't feel great to breathe in), but you're totally right that the sound gives a lot more clues than just seeing, when backing out of a spot.

Also helpful in really foggy roads, slow down and roll down windows a little to pick up other vehicles

It sounds crazy but I crack the driver side window anytime I'm not going highway speeds. So much more info about what's going on than being hermetically sealed in a steel tube.

Most of us echolocate already, oftentimes without even knowing it.

An exercise to test/prove existing echolocation abilities: Stand 10 meters from a wall. Close your eyes and walk towards it. Try to stop right in front of the wall without opening the eyes. The majority of participants will stop when the wall is 1/5 meter in front of the face. Participants report “hearing” the wall.

Broadly speaking, listening is the human means for becoming aware of physical threats. Even unconsciously heard sounds will trigger stress hormones.

The fact that blind people make decisions based on active echolocation without realizing that's what they're doing is IMO one of the great arguments against the idea that we're particularly knowledgeable about our own conscious thought processes.

How Well Do We Know Our Own Conscious Experience? The Case of Human Echolocation by Eric Schwitzgebel and Michael S. Gordon


been obsessed with this paper since it came out.

The book "Phi" might interest you, it's written by an influential consciousness researcher, Giulio Tononi.

There is one example in the book, I believe, where a person is consciously blind, and is completely convinced they're blind, but when asked to walk through a hallway filled with junk and obstacles, the person passes through the hallway without a problem. When asked, "how did you avoid those obstacles?", they answered "luck", "small obstacles", etc...

It almost seems to me as if consciousness serves a social function. The mind's eye is blind, but the unconscious eye isn't. Yet, they communicate as if they were blind.

I wonder if there are more cases like this one, whether they lose their ability to communicate in all/most similar cases.

The blindness/sightedness phenomenon you're describing is called https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blindsight .

There's a controversial opposite, called https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anton%E2%80%93Babinski_syndrom...

(Semi-relatedly, plug for Peter Watt's book https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blindsight_(Watts_novel) )

Your sentence about "It almost seems to me as if..." seems to be hinting at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epiphenomenalism / https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/epiphenomenalism/ . This is a theory/proposal that consciousness does not actually cause behaviour, but is simply a subject experience caused by the physical processes that do cause behaviour (how's THAT for a gross oversimplification, fite me bro). I suggest that this is both an interesting theory in its own right, but also an interesting mental exercise to limber up how one thinks about things like volition/free-will and responsibility.

> the idea that we're particularly knowledgeable about our own conscious thought processes.

Is there anyone out there actually pushing this idea?

This reminds me of a ted talk I had the pleasure to enjoy watching with a good friend while "intoxicated".

The talk's title is "Can we create new senses for humans?" by David Eagleman and is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4c1lqFXHvqI

Not sure how "intoxicated" is different from intoxicated but this was a great TED talk, thnx.

He should have used "inebriated", technically cannabis does act as a toxin to you, but, I find it misleading to categorize it like that =]

This reminds me of an incredible episode of the podcast Invisibilia: https://www.npr.org/programs/invisibilia/378577902/how-to-be...

Here's an inspiring talk by Daniel Kish who has been blind since he was 13 months old and relies on echolocation.

> Daniel Kish: How I use sonar to navigate the world


I managed to discover that on my own when bored and walking around both in the dark and while waiting for a ride to arrive. Although it was a different technique.

I noticed that I could make a continuous sound and it would correspond roughly with the distance and gave me a one-dimensional relative distance detection from my head. A 'hissing' sound worked best for continuous reading while being subtle. It was pretty easy for me but it might have to do with being on the autistic spectrum and hypersensitivity.

I usually sleep with a white noise app running, and I can always hear when the cat is crawling around nearby. (Free app idea, Sonic Cat Detector -- you're welcome :) )

This is so cool, reminds me of a documentary I saw about people who do this (it may have even featured the same guy, I can't remember). After seeing the documentary I spent the next weekend trying to get around my apartment blindfolded, clicking. This article inspires me to try again.

In the Dark Universe novel by Daniel F Galouye, a section of humanity has hidden themselves for generations in lightless caverns below a poisoned Earth. They have become functionally blind, and find their way about by knocking stones together for echo location.

anyone else read the title as e-chocolate?

The capital E makes it look like a proper noun, like Email.

Crazy thing how these letters in our alphabet work.

We need a better alphabet! Ya?

Yes. Better still, I skim read "Teach Yourself to Echolocate" as "Treat Yourself to E-chocolate". Maybe my subconscious is trying to tell me something. Did a bit of an internet search and, unlike e-cigarettes, it seems like e-chocolate doesn't exist, yet.

I didn't, but I can't stop doing it now.

This gave me an idea, I will try to learn this for night vision :D

Do loud noises or loud music interfere with it?

I would imagine it does, but I'm also curious how quiet it had to be for this to work.

It definitely does. I've practiced this a little myself and in louder environments you need a louder click. On the other hand, ambient noise can give rich information about close obstacles without yourself or that object needing to actively make any noise.

There should be an app for this.

Most phones have stereo microphones and they're individually accessible by apps. Combined with the accelerometer for rough position change tracking, it must be possible to build. Would be super cool to see in the dark like that.

Edit: wait, we don't just have two mics in our head, we also have our outer ear that's required for this. I guess the phone would need physical addons for this to work.

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