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Echolocation - John C. Kirk

Jul. 1st, 2008

12:19 am - Echolocation

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I recently wrote about senses, wondering which is the most important. Although I voted for touch, I still think I'd find it really hard to get by without sight. That said, there are other people who cope with that situation very well. For instance, I went to the BCS Turing Lecture in Jan 2006, given by Chris Mairs. Quoting from my previous post: The speaker is from the Douglas Bader school of "not letting your disabilities get in the way", so even though he's blind he's done things like solo water-skiing across the English channel to raise money for charity, and he made his points in an entertaining way.

This evening I was reading an article at Cracked.com: 7 People From Around the World With Real Mutant Superpowers. At #6 they mention Ben Underwood; he's been blind since he was 3, but he can get around by echolocation. Basically, he does the same thing as Daredevil - he builds up a picture of his surroundings by listening very carefully to echoes.

Admittedly, Cracked isn't the most reputable source, but there's also a Guardian article about Ben, and an amazing video:



In the mini-series "Daredevil: The Man Without Fear" (Frank Miller's version of the origin story), there's a scene where Stick first trains young Matt Murdock to deal with his blindness. "The air's filling the room. One wall's closer than the other. Feel it. Now the other wall. Feel it. Concentrate. Concentrate." When I read that, I thought it was pretty cool, and I could suspend my disbelief, but this sheds a whole new light on it. To a lesser extent, the same applies to Alicia Masters (blind sculptor), who creates very lifelike statues.

Coming back to reality, the stuff that Ben Underwood does is just ridiculously impressive; if he can take things in stride, it makes me look pretty pathetic if I whine about smaller setbacks. In particular, he's far better at inline skating than I am. The last time I tried that was in July 2003, but I've been meaning to try it again, so I'm planning to do Monday evening lessons in Hyde Park with Citiskate. Time to push my limits a bit, I think.

Comments:

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From:rileen
Date:July 1st, 2008 07:29 am (UTC)

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Wow - that kid is just *wow*. Hats off to him. Thanks for linking the video.

And good luck with the skating!
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From:susannahf
Date:July 2nd, 2008 10:41 am (UTC)
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Good luck with the skating. I love their description of levels here. Particularly levels 1 "Stopping methods include pedestrians, skin loss and gravity" and 4 "Basic cheekiness and arrogance"!
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From:johnckirk
Date:July 2nd, 2008 10:51 pm (UTC)
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Thanks - I'm hoping that my snowboarding experience will come in handy, now that I've had a bit more practice at going down steep(ish) slopes :) I liked their levels too, and I'd definitely put myself at level 1 at the moment. There was some related advice that I came across a while back:

"A variation on the wall stop is the billiard ball stop. Instead of stopping against an object, use a fellow skater to push off and transfer your momentum to them. To be safe, warn the receiving person about your approach. It works well on flat surfaces and at low to moderate speeds. It's not recommended at high speeds and especially on people you don't know 8-)"

(From the Skate FAQs.)
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