16 08 2010

When I saw this word – earsight – in a small headline in today’s SMH (p.18), I immediately thought of “hindsight”, that wonderful word for the infuriating moments of insight and understanding that you have when they’re too late to have any impact. Using that association, I leapfrogged to the idea that earsight might mean stuff you come to understand later, after the event, as a result of what you remember hearing. Yeah, I know, bit of a stretch.

Turns out earsight is the subject of a New Scientist report about a scientific development that now allows people to see through their ears – hence “ear”+”sight”. Much more literal than my guess. The device uses a webcam “to send an image to a computer which translates it into a soundscape” that the user’s brain then decodes. After about 15 hours of training, a user can get sufficiently comfortable with the process to be able to see via their ears.

Personally, I don’t quite grasp how one thing gets transformed into another thing, but I’ve read The Brain That Changes Itself (Norman Doidge, Scribe, 2009), so I’m a believer that the brain (or bits of it) can learn to do new stuff. Pretty amazing, really, although the reporter in the SMH (Stay in Touch, p.18) can’t help taking the mickey – ending with “Next week: hearing through your nose, drinking through your toes and talking out your…elbow”. Fair enough.




One response

16 08 2010

Hi Prof. Ruth,

After reading you thoughts, I admit that I went to my dictionary to clarify a few things. I looked up “hindsight” which I kind of guessed what it means, but I found an other confusing word instead “hindbrain”.
This is what my dictionary says: noun. The lower part of the brainstem(up until it is clear) then it goes like this “comprising the cerebellum, pons, and medulla oblongata. Also called Rhombencephalon”.
Now, here I was just guessing that this is some kind of medical, descriptive mambo-jumbo. At least for me it is. Could U explain this with a more understandable language that make sense for a simple soul like me? Thank You!

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