Close your eyes for a few moments and see if you can see with your ears. Yes, I said with your ears. Listen carefully to the sounds around you. Can those sounds help you see without opening your eyes?
Did you know that God created some animals that can see the world around them with their ears? Can you think of any animals that see with their ears?
How about bats? Many bats live in dark caves. Sometimes there are over a million bats living in the same cave. How do you think the bats are able to fly in the dark caves without flying into the cave walls or each other? Bats also hunt for flying bugs at night. How can they find the bugs in the dark?
Bats can see with their ears. They make a sound that most people cannot hear, but the bats can hear it. The sounds they make bounce off of objects like cave walls, other bats and even bugs and back to the bats. Depending on how long it takes the sounds to bounce back to the bats tells them how far they are from the object. The direction from where the sounds come from tells them where the cave wall or bug is.
This is known as echolocation. Echolocation is being able to locate or find something by using the sound that echoes or bounces back.
Bats aren’t the only animal that uses echolocation to see with their ears. Did you know that dolphins also use sounds to see things that they can’t see with their eyes? Dolphins like to eat smaller fish. Sometimes these fish will hide in the sandy bottom of the sea. The dolphin will swim over the sandy bottom and send out sounds that actually penetrate into the sand. The differences in the sounds that echo back to the dolphin allows it to see into the sand and find the fish. Then they use their noses to dig into the sand to find the fish and eat them.
Many whales also use echolocation to find fish to eat and to find other whales.
Did you know that man learned from bats how to use echolocation? It’s called RADAR. RADAR stands for RAdio Detecting And Ranging. Radar uses radio waves to bounce off of objects, just like bats use sounds to bounce off of cave walls and bugs. Radar is used today in many areas of our lives. Airports keep track of airplanes in the air by using radar. They know how high and fast and in what directions the planes are flying. It helps them keep the planes from crashing into each other.
Weathermen also use a form of radar known as Doppler radar to track rain, snow, storms, tornadoes and hurricanes (like the radar of Hurricane Katrina shown here). The Doppler radar allows them to know how strong the storms are and what direction they are going. Sometimes, the radar helps them warn people of a strong or dangerous storm so they can protect themselves. Radar has been used to save many lives.
Man also learned from dolphins and whales how to use sound underwater to find things. Using echolocation to find things underwater is called SONAR. SONAR stands for SOund NAvigation Ranging. Sonar helps submarines know where they are. The sonar bounces off of the bottom of the ocean or underwater mountains. Sonar has helped us to map the ocean bottoms and to see how deep they are. They have also used sonar to discover huge mountains on the ocean floors.
Have you ever gone fishing and used a fish-finder? A fish finder is a type of sonar that helps fishermen find fish and to know how deep the water is.
We learn so much by studying the animals and plants that God created. In fact, did you know that some blind people are learning to be like bats and use sounds to see? They make a clicking noise with their mouths and listen for the echo to come back to them. And like bats, the direction of the echo and how long it takes to bounce back to them, helps them see the world around them. They can tell the difference between a building and tree by how the echo sounds. If the echo is sharp and crisp, the object it bounced off is hard like a wall or building. If the echo is softer and a little fuzzy sounding, then it probably bounced off a tree or bush. Some of these blind people are so good at using echolocation that they use it move around like bats and dolphins, like Ben Underwood in the photo on his bike. Ben became blind at age two because of cancer in his eyes. By the time he was a teenager, he learned how to use echolocation to see the world around and to do things like ride his bike without running into things.
God’s creation is amazing and there are so many things we can learn by studying the world around us.