Organic Machines

Work Cited

Axtell, Matthew A. “Bioacoustical Warfare.” the minnesota review 2010.73-74 (2009): 205-218.

Bin-bin, Cheng. “Bats’ Acoustic Detection System and Echolocation Bionics.” Radar Conference (RADAR), 2012 IEEE. Mianyang, China : Inst. of Electron. Eng., China Acad. of Eng. Phys., 2012. 984-988. Print.

davidsonweb. “bat sound קולות של עטלף.” Online Video Clip. Youtube. Youtube. 12 December 2010. Web. 14 April 2013.

dolphindog. “Dolphin (wild) talking to me underwater.” Online Video Clip. Youtube. Youtube, 3 December 2011. Web. 14 April 2013.

Houser, Dorian. “Signal Processing Applied to the Dolphin Based Sonar System.” OCEANS 2003. Proceedings. 1. (2003): 297-303. Web. 14 Apr. 2013.

MrDildoh. “Submarine Sonar Sound.flv.” Online Video Clip. Youtube. Youtube, 8 June 2010. Web. 14 April 2013.

The Ultimate Guide: Secrets of Dolphin Sonar. Animal Planet, 2010. Web. 14 Apr 2013.

Mechanical Echolocation Disturbs Natural Echolocators

Every location has a soundscape. Not only does it exist on land but in the ocean. The creatures that live in these environments are part of the soundscape, including the ones that echolocate.  When animals such as bats and dolphins emit the sounds that detect the landscape around them they are contributing to the soundscape. These sounds that are used for echolocation are part of the natural soundscape unlike those of emitted by sonar and radar used by the military. When sonar and radar release the sound pulse it creates noise pollution, disturbing and disrupting the natural soundscape. It can prove hazardous for animals that use echolocation. Sonar sounds in some cases cause temporary deafness in dolphins and has been linked to cases of marine life that use echolocation stranding themselves.

The sound clip is that of the undisturbed natural soundscape of a bat. In the background it is possible to hear normal nighttime sounds including that of a cricket. The main sound is that of the bat while using echolocation to navigate and hunt. Each screech that the bat produces enables it to determine the terrain including the difference between land and water along with the location of any passing insects. Military radar and sonar use the same system except that instead of insects they are searching for passing enemy planes, ships and submarines.


Military Copycats

Research Proposal

The way that humans have advanced their use of technology past the point of the basic stone and stick is one of the things that separates them from the rest of the species on the planet. Inspiration for new types of technology comes from the world around us. Often people look to their natural environment in search for ideas to improve their lives. Ideas such as solar energy come from the knowledge that plants convert sunlight into energy that is used to sustain them. In an attempt to further improve the process scientists have taken to studying the process of photosynthesis in an effort to make it more effective. Echolocation has followed the same process. The military saw that dolphins and bats use echolocation to locate objects in their surroundings. They then adapted it in to sonar and radar. In an effort to make them more effective they studied in detail the animals that developed echolocation for their survival.

Echolocation differs between aquatic and land animals due to the difference in their environments. The way that echolocation works even differs between the individual species of bats and dolphins. For some species echolocation is their sole method of orientation while others posses limited eyesight. In some of the cases that animals possess eyesight and echolocation they use them interchangeably. The different species emit sounds at different frequencies. In all cases of true echolocation there is both the ability to emit and receive an ultrasonic sound. Part of the reception of the sound happens in the brain. “There are different relationships between the cortical and subcortical divisions of the brain in bats as compared with other mammals” (Airapet’yants 277). Other portions of the brain are also affected echolocation. The area of the brain that is in charge of echolocation is separate but essential.

With new advances in warfare there came to be a need new advances in counter warfare. The development of sonar and radar are part of this process. “Electronics in war… [began] to affect the whole character of war” (Devereux XV). Radar and sonar were used in both of the major wars of the twentieth century. They were invented using the already developed radio. The radio was developed as communication in the late nineteenth century. A German inventor patented the radar in 1904 when he noticed that radio waves would bounce off of a passing ship. The first sonar was patented in 1912 and more research was done when there became the need to detect German U-boats or submarines during World War I.

Further studies were done with the goal of making military echolocation more effective. To do so examples were needed of successful examples. This is when the military turned to animals that had developed the adaptation. The natural equivalent to radar is bats and the natural equivalent to sonar are dolphins. “The Navy’s sonar program and civilian marine mammal research program were linked during World War II” (Axtell 206). There are two types of sonar: active and passive. Marine mammals use active sonar while the sonar in military aquatic vessels was passive. Active sonar is when a sound is sent out, bounces off objects and returns while passive sonar is when the sounds made by other objects are listened for. The military now uses a combination of passive and active sonar.

A major way of learning is through the use of examples. Initially the military was able to develop their own methods of echolocation to determine the objects in their surroundings. In efforts to improve the military worked with who made a study of the animals that adapted to use echolocation. In some cases dolphins were used directly my the military “to sweep for mines, recover lost ordnance, and detect enemy ‘frogmen’ at sea” (Axtell 206). Currently the echolocation systems of the military have become every effective tools. They are different from those of bats and dolphins however. Animal echolocation provides a detailed account of the area in a close range while machines provide a general account of information on the area but at long distances. “‘Live locators’ are a cause for envy among engineers” for their ability to accumulate detail (Airapet’yants 279).

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Background into Focus

I have never been someone who has had great skill in listening to multiple things at once. Because of this when I am focused on an activity I tend not to notice the things around me. The whole world is happening but because I am not paying attention to it, it is not actually happening to me. Every so often something in the things that I tune out begins to capture my attention. “Hearing has evolved as our alarm system — it operates out of line of sight and works even while you are asleep” (Horowitz 1). In my case, without my hearing working as an alarm system, I wouldn’t hear my alarm go off in the morning.

Having sound that capture my attention can work to my disadvantage also. At times when I attempt to study, the constant turning of a page can pull me away from what I should be doing. I become so focused on the one sound that every time I hear it, I have to pay attention to it. This also occurs as I am trying to fall asleep. It is much more interesting to listen to the conversations that occur in the hallway at midnight then it is to just fall asleep.

In some cases sounds that I hear become much easier to ignore once I discern their cause. My room borders a stairwell. Lying in bed trying to fall asleep, I would often hear a banging, echoing sound coming from the stairwell. The source of noise in the stairwell was a mystery to me for a while. It would occur randomly throughout the day but it was especially prevalent on weekend nights.  I was force to rely on causal listening “to gather information about its cause” and came to the conclusion that it was the result of people banging on the railings as they climbed the stairs (Chion 48).

Sometimes I was unable to pick out the specific cause of my distraction. In the Harris-Millis Dining Hall the sounds were not individual. All the different sounds had combined to create a whole new sound. Because I could not pick up the individual sounds I had to focus on the sound itself. By using reduced listening I was able to pick up the “timbre and texture” of the dining hall (Chion 51).

This assignment has been particularly successful at bring my focus to the things that I traditionally ignore. Even at this moment the clack of the keys on my computer keyboard have caught my attention. As I type I normally tune out the fact that each key has a sound that varies slightly differently from the others. Something that I do so often is so easily ignored. Previously, when I filled my water bottle at the fountain I was fascinated with the way the water would land in the bottle and then fill it. This assignment made me listen to the change in the sound that the water made as the bottle went from empty to full.

When I ride the bus, initially I am able to hear all the people talking along with being able to hear the rumble of the bus engine. As I spend more time on the bus, everyone’s voices seem to gradually fade out and blend with the engine unless I specifically focus on one particular conversation. However the longer that I am on it, the less I notice the engine. In this way my ears close without me even being aware of it happening.

At times I close my ears to things I should not. If a lecture does not capture my attention I end up getting distracted. In these cases I am not “open to new ideas” because they do not hold my interest (Schafer 25). Doing this assignment has made me realize just how much I close my ears to the world around me. If I miss this much in the course of a week, how much do I loose in a lifetime?

List of Sounds

Works Cited

Chion, Michel. “The Three Listening Modes.” The Sound Studies Reader. Ed. Jonathan Sterne. New York: Routledge, 2012. 48-53. Print.

Horowitz, Seth S. “The Science and Art of Listening.” The New York Times 9 Nov. 2012: 1-3. Print.

Schafer, Murray. “Open Ears.” Thinking About Sound. 25-39. Print.

Sounds of The Narrative Life of Fredrick Douglass

The key to Fredrick Douglass’s escape and later success as an abolitionist was his ability to read. Because of how important it is, I have chosen a scene where he made “friends of all the little white boys whom [he] met on the street…[and] converted into teachers”(Douglass 23). The “bread of knowledge” would cost him bread, of which he had plenty. Going into the scene the sound will start to layer. The most distant sounds, that of the shipyard, will start at a normal volume. As the scene continues it gets quieter and more distant only to be replaced with the street sounds of Baltimore. That too will fade though slightly less, leaving the relevant sounds of the boys as the loudest.

The soft whistling of the wind between the masts forcing the sails to billow and flap and the flags to snap in the near by Durgin and Bailey’s shipyard. The soft constant slap of the waves against the hulls of the ships blends with the irregular creaking of the wooden docks as it is stepped on. The squawk of seagulls clashes with the curses of the dockworkers that are raised to be heard over the thud of crates. The sound that draws the most attention however is the crack of a whip followed but the smack of it connecting to the skin of slaves. Their cries of pain sound out afterwards.

The more immediate sounds are those of the streets of Baltimore. The horses’ shod hooves clop on the cobblestone. The carts they pull rattle at every divot in the road. The horses whinny. The people’s voices vary, male and female. Each distinct yet muffled.

The most dominant voices are those of adolescent boys. They are infused with challenge and the carefreeness of youth. One challenges the other “‘I don’t believe you. Let me see you try.’” (Douglass 26) This is followed by the scratch of chalk on a nearby brick wall as Douglass does so. The boy who is watching is busy with a loaf of bread, the crunch of the crust as it is ripped in pieces before being shoved into his mouth. It acts as a muffler and impedes the speech of the boy as he proves to Douglass the expanse of his knowledge.

In seeking to escape slavery Douglass seeks to escape the fate of his grandmother, lonely and forgotten. To emphasize the desolation of his grandmother’s cabin, the only sound would be silence. In a long camera shot of a hut surrounded by woods, the sound of silence would be broken only by the stray chirp of a cicada, the rustle of leaves in the wind, and “by day the moans of a dove and by night the screams of the hideous owl” (Douglass 29). The camera would then zoom in on the door. As it approaches the door it would emit a creek as it swings open. Inside the cabin the silence prevails except for the crackle of a dying fire and the slow rasp of the grandmother’s breath. The shot pans to the rustle of rough cloth against the dry, calloused skin of the old woman. As the viewers watch the woman gives a raspy cough and lets out a last rattling breath.