Believe it or not

by Jonathan Sarfati

Seeing with sound


Animal sonars far surpass human devices in capability. For example, a dolphin can 'see' a tennis ball 80 metres (260 feet) away.

Even supercomputers, which use thousands of times as much energy as an animal's brain, can't do the data processing fast enough to match the animals.

Scientists at Tel Aviv University (Israel) and Brown University (USA) are studying dolphins, bats and mole rats to see how we can do better with our machines.1

They have found that the animals analyse the echoes from the sounds they emit (pings) in multiple ways simultaneously. And they do it very fast. This enables them to get much more information from the sounds received. The researchers hope their findings will enable the design of better ultrasound imaging devices for medical use.

Enormous human ingenuity has gone into developing sonar and ultrasound imaging devices and yet many claim that no intelligence, no ingenuity, was needed for the origin of the animal systems that are far superior. This is just one of the many examples of biomimetics or biomimicry.2

  1. Bats, dolphins, and mole rats inspire advances in ultrasound technology;; 14 November 2011.
  2. See
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