dolphin style

Posted on June 30, 2009
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Electricity bills getting you down?  Use this handy guide to the art of echolocation from Wired magazine and live happily in total darkness…

With just a few weeks of training, you can learn to “see” objects in the dark using echolocation the same way dolphins and bats do.

Ordinary people with no special skills can use tongue clicks to visualize objects by listening to the way sound echoes off their surroundings, according to acoustic experts at the University of Alcalá de Henares in Spain.

“Two hours per day for a couple of weeks are enough to distinguish whether you have an object in front of you,” Juan Antonio Martinez said in a press release. “Within another couple weeks you can tell the difference between trees and pavement.”

To master the art of echolocation, all you have to do is learn to make special clicks with your tongue and palate, and then learn to recognize slight changes in the way the clicks sound depending on what objects are nearby. Martinez and his colleagues are developing a system to teach people how to use echolocation, a skill that could be particularly useful for the blind and for people who work under dark or smoky conditions, like firefighters — or cat burglars.

Most animals that use echolocation have organs that are specifically adapted to emit and receive sonar signals, but we humans have to rely on our rather clumsy mouth and ears. For instance, while dolphins use a special structure in their nose to generate up to 200 clicks per second, people can make only three or four clicks per second.

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