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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

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987