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Echolocation, How To See With Your Ears

Ever heard (no pun intended) of echolocation? It's the ability of some animals, most famously dolphins and bats, to emit sound waves to determine the location and size of objects around them, which helps them "see." Scientists have long known that some blind humans shared this skill and were able to also emit clicking sounds to "see" with their ears. But a recent study published in Psychological Science confirmed just how powerful human echolocation is — ironically, by showing how those who use it fall prey to the same "size-weight illusion" as people who can see.

Gavin Buckingham, a psychological scientist at Edinburgh's Heriot-Watt University, conducted an experiment with the cooperation of six blind people, three of whom could use echolocation and three who could not, and four sighted people. They were presented with three boxes of different sizes but of similar weight. While blind non-echolocators correctly found that the three boxes weighed the same, sighted people and echolocators thought that the bigger boxes weighed more than the smaller ones, a phenomenon known as the Charpentier illusion.

Echolocators "also got it wrong," a delighted Gavin Buckingham told Le Monde. "Though they were not as bad as the sighted people, because their perception is more precise and blind people can generally better appreciate the weight of objects. But the difference between those can echolocate and those who can't is still an important one. Echolocation is indeed an alternative vision that is built and capable of influencing other senses," he explained.

See how echolocation works with Daniel Kish, president of the non-profit organization World Access for the Blind whose nickname is "the real life batman."

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A Refuge From China's Rat Race: The Young People Flocking To Buddhist Monasteries

Unemployment, stress in the workplace, economic difficulties: more and more young Chinese graduates are flocking to monasteries to find "another school of life."

Photograph of a girl praying at a temple during Chinese Lunar New Year. She is burning incense.

Feb 20, 2015 - Huaibei, China - Chinese worshippers pray at a temple during the Lunar New Yeat

Frédéric Schaeffer

JIAXING — It's already dawn at Xianghai Temple when Lin, 26, goes to the Hall of 10,000 Buddhas for the 5:30 a.m. prayer.

Still half-asleep, the young woman joins the monks in chanting mantras and reciting sacred texts for an hour. Kneeling, she bows three times to Vairocana, also known as the Great Sun Buddha, who dominates the 42-meter-high hall representing the cosmos.

Before grabbing a vegetarian breakfast in the adjacent refectory, monks and devotees chant around the hall to the sound of drums and gongs.

"I resigned last October from the e-commerce company where I had been working for the past two years in Nanjing, and joined the temple in January, where I am now a volunteer in residence," explains the young woman, soberly dressed in black pants and a cream linen jacket.

Located in the city of Jiaxing, over a hundred kilometers from Shanghai, in eastern China, the Xianghai temple is home to some 20 permanent volunteers.

Unlike Lin, most of them only stay for a couple days or a few weeks. But for Lin, who spends most of her free time studying Buddhist texts in the temple library, the change in her life has been radical. "I used to do the same job every day, sometimes until very late at night, writing all kinds of reports for my boss. I was exhausted physically and mentally. I felt my life had no meaning," she says.

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