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No. 31: Jan-Feb 1984

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Hearing Via Acoustic Holograms

Humans and the higher primates can locate the source of a sound without turning their ears or heads. Other animals are not so fortunate. Current theories of hearing, according to Hugo Zuccarelli, cannot explain this human capability, which we all take for granted. He has come up with a new theory that pictures our ears as truly remarkable organs. First, our ear itself is a sound emitter. It emits a reference sound that combines with incoming sound to form an interference pattern inside the ear. The nature of this pattern is sensitive to the direction of the incoming sound. Our ear's cochlea detects and analyzes this pattern as if it were an acoustic hologram. The brain then interprets this data and infers the direction of the sound.

(Zuccarelli, Hugo; "Ears Hear by Making Sounds," New Scientist, 100:438, 1983.)

Comment. We have been able to appreciate this slick biological trick only after we "discovered" holograms. We should wonder if we are missing anything else!

Two letters quickly appeared casting doubt on not only Zuccarelli's Theory but his personal scientific capabilities.

(Baxter, A.J., and Kemp, David T.; "Zuccarelli's Theory," New Scientist, 100:606, 1983.)

From Science Frontiers #31, JAN-FEB 1984. 1984-2000 William R. Corliss