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The woman who sees like a bat

January 13, 2015 This article courtesy of Nature News.

The first episode in a new series of audio documentaries on Nature's podcast asks what it is like to be a bat, and meets the woman who knows better than anyone.

What is it like to be a bat? To sleep upside down, eat insects and use sound to ‘see’? Philosophers have debated the question for decades as a way to think about other minds, and bat ecologists have turned their tools towards it. One woman knows better than all of them. Fiona Gameson had both eyes removed because of a rare childhood cancer. She uses echolocation to navigate and see with sound. “I call it my 'bat sense',” she says.

Fiona echolocates with a series of clicks — she pulls her tongue away from the roof of her mouth to make a sharp ‘tick-tick’ sound. Then she listens for the echoes that bounce off objects around her, revealing their physical properties. This audio documentary, the first in a new series about sound science on Nature's podcast, tells Fiona’s story and peers into the science of echolocation and perception, with the help of a bat ecologist, a neuroscientist who specializes in echolocation and a philosopher of mind.

The series, Audiofile, continues monthly. Subsequent episodes will offer listeners sound-rich stories on the effects of noise on human health, archaeoacoustics and the impact of music on science.


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