Echolocation (Bio-Sonar)

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Music is the harmonious voice of creation; an echo of the invisible world

Giuseppe Mazzini

Echolocation, the location of objects by reflected sound. Animals use echolocation, also called bio-sonar by emitting calls into the environment and listening to the echoes return from various objects near them. These echoes help the animal locate and identify the size and distance of nearby objects and navigate around them. Dolphins and bats employ bio-sonar.

Imagine a dolphin moving through the water at about 25mph. Dust and sand from the bottom of the ocean from a recent storm, so despite the dolphin’s keen eyesight, the dolphin must employ his bio-sonar for navigation.

He makes a series of clicks and popping sounds, as he swims. These sounds are created using the nasal sinuses below his blowhole on top of his head. He projects the sounds through the water, where the soundwaves hit obstacles in the water such as soundbars, reefs, fellow dolphins, other fish, predators ships and anything else it may encounter.

As the sound waves hit the surfaces of the objects, they bounce off the object and reflecting the sound back to the dolphin. The dolphin’s brain feeling these vibratory echoes in his teeth and lower jaw reportedly makes a three-dimensional image of the shapes, size and distnace of nearby objects enable him to navigate the murky water without slowing down.

We can think of this echo-location as the mind’s ability to create a detailed sonic image based on the soundwaves reverberating back to it from nearby objects.

I imagine, the dolphin can assess some sort of density of the object as well, to enable distinguishing food from predators and other large objects such as ships. (Ships use a similar process to navigate)

As surprising as it sounds, humans have the capacity to develop echo-location. There are documented cases of humans that employ echolocation. I watched a documentary somewhere about a blind man who used echolocation. I am not sure I would’ve believed it at the time, if I hadn’t watched it myself. I watched a man without vision navigate aorund a park and even ride a bike!

When we hear a loud sound, the structure, shape, and distance between our ears enable us to assess the direction and distance of a heard sound. Our brains are capable of detecting millisecond differences between when a sound reaches one ear and the other. This gives our brains a precise sense of direction.

As a visually oriented society, many of us will never develop this skill. The simple knowledge that the skill can be developed is fascinating to me and often has me reflecting on the vast untapped potential that we all have in our supercomputer brains. Perhaps if we get out of our own way more often, we can learn to recognize these extra-sensory perceptions as they are so-called.

Meditation enables us to get out of the head, it helps us get out of our own way, Later today, we will try an acoustic & reverb exercise that helps us learn to hone in on our own bio-sonar skills. Stay tuned!

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