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 Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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