Planet of Sound

In the center of the soundar system existed a behemoth sphere, its own gravity holding it together, referred to as the Sound. Tiny explosions of the gaseous star were relentless and loudly emitted from the Sound as waves; so loud in fact that the noise of the Sound waves reached easily to the third planet from the Sound, in the form of a hum. These explosions did not emit light, at least not enough to break free from the gravity of the star. But the sound waves penetrated the atmosphere of the third, wet planet, and the vibrations reverberated throughout the land and water. The explosions emitted noise with such intensity that the sound waves were still hot when they reached this planet.

No one knows how, but billions of years after this planet formed, life sprang from the crevices. People knew that the building blocks of life were water, and sound waves, but how it started was a mystery. People had been around for some time, though relatively short in terms of the age of the planet. They walked upright, had two legs and two arms, hands with which to feel, and a head on their shoulders. They had mouths to eat with, a nose to smell, and two big ears, that extended about two inches from the front of their face on either side and slightly above their noses.

Their ears were funnel shaped and could be focused in any direction within about 180 degrees of the direction a person was facing in order to hear what was around them. Relatively close, forward facing ears were a sign that people were trackers and predators: hunters in the old days. These ears were extremely sensitive and could pick up on the smallest noises. When the planet rotated every 24 hours and the Sound was out of hear, people would use artificial noise to listen where they were going. Their cars had head-waves to noisen up the path, so that they wouldn’t drive their cars off the roads.

By this time on the planet, science was advanced: everyone knew that sound waves and noise made everything around them hearable; the waves bounced off objects, and thusly told the ears where objects were. But so intricate were the ears that two seemingly identical surfaces could be distinguished based on their buzz. Ink of different buzzes (buzz was in fact just difference noise-wave lengths bouncing off physical objects at different frequencies) could be listened to, so that people heard words on a paper. A low frequency sound wave would show up hot like the Sound, and hum, while the quicker waves sounded cooler, like the sky or the ocean. Many thousands of years ago people managed to mimic the tiny explosions of the Sound, and created their own hum that kept them warm. At first people used hum to see where they were going, and cook their food, until more advanced methods became available.

People had light sensors on the sides of their heads; these were crude and only could distinguish general tones of light. People had developed a language to communicate; it involved emitting small bits of light from the mouth, in certain patterns. The brighter the light, usually the more excited or angry someone was. A typical greeting in one area was to emit a long stream of white light, then taper that into a short red light, finished with another quicker burst of white light. This meant hello, or good morning. When a particularly bright light was issued in a wide open space, sometimes the echo could be detected by the human light sensors, of the light bouncing off distant objects.

Crops were planted across vast fields where the Sound could easily reach unobstructed by hills or larger plants and trees. The leaves absorbed the Sound waves and audiosynthesized their nutrition when combined with water.

Sometime it proved quite convenient for one’s surroundings to be recognized by sound. People on this planet had no larynx, no vocal cords, and no voice box. In fact no detectable noise came from their mouths, only different shades and intensities of light for communication, created by a chemical reaction in the tongue. But if someone happened to find themselves in a quiet room with no sound or noise, unable to listen where they were going or hear what was around them, they could always clap their hands and emit short bursts of noise in order to catch a glimpse of their surroundings.

In fact most life on earth could hardly emit any noise at all. Only when it was very quiet would noise from walking or clashing objects show the area. In day-noise, the sound of clapping would not be heard. But there were some creatures deep in the ocean, and dwelling far underground in caves who managed to evolve with the ability to give off small bits of noise, like a hum. This helped them hunt prey attracted to the noise, or detect where the cave walls were.

There was a man in this world who had lost his hearing, but seemed to gain that much more skill in using his other senses. He could actually detect with his sensors the light he would emit from his tongue enough to artificially “hear” where he was going. The light would bounce back off of objects, and his sensors became so fine tuned that a blurry picture of the world emerged from only the light he emitted from his tongue in small bursts. He could not hear in such brilliant detail as his peers, but he could “hear” general sizes of the objects around him from the sensors collecting the light that bounced off of them.

Such a concept had never much been seen of before this man. Instead of hearing where he was going, and listening to the world, he had to try his best not to bump into things with only a bit of light bouncing back into his light sensors.

People were used to looking with their light sensors at what other people were flashing, in order to communicate. But the light detectors on the sides of this man’s head were used not simply for conversation, but for sight, for seeing the world around him, since he was unable to hear it.

What strides he had made, in a world were everyone else depended so much on hearing all that was around them.

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Don’t Fear the Light: Openness vs. Blind Faith


plato
I believe it was Carlsbad Caverns that my family toured when I was going into fourth grade. We were taken deep beneath the earth’s surface, and guided into a large domed cave within the natural underground tunnels. The tour guide told us to put our hand 12 inches in front of our face, and he turned off the flashlight. “Can you see the outline of your hand?” he asked. We all could–or so we thought. There was no light at this depth in these caves detectable by the human eye, and the outline we thought we saw was simply a construction of our brain. A single match was then lit, flooding the ballroom sized cavern with enough light to see every stalactite and stalagmite in wonderful detail.

It seems likely that a humans’ aversion to new ideas is rooted in evolution. If what you have been doing has always worked for survival, changing it could be quite dangerous. Why let someone convince you to go out on a limb that could snap, instead of continuing practices that have always kept you alive? It is understandable that our survival instincts tell us to fear change, and support the status quo. If there were berries and game here last year, there will probably be next year as well.

But in evolution danger lies in too homogeneous a species. There is still much mystery surrounding why, but about 70,000 years ago the human population of earth “bottlenecked” and was reduced to somewhere between 2,000 and 10,000 individuals. Humans were extremely endangered and essentially almost went extinct. For the people living before the event or series of events or long-term change, there was not much reason to change what had worked for survival. But for some reason, a bunch of humans died off, and only a small group survived.

I don’t know why that group survived. It could have been a genetic variation, or special skills one group possessed, or perhaps, the ability to adapt. While many other humans could not break with tradition in terms of “what has always worked”, maybe a small group was able to reassess their method of survival, and change it in order to survive in the new environment. Whether the new environment was caused by climate, predators, wars, disease, famine, or aliens hardly matters. What matters is the ability to predict upheaval, and properly prepare for that change.

70,000 years ago there were probably a lot of people that knew something was happening, but did not know what to do about it. They probably continued living the only life they knew, and died because of it. There were probably also people who did not see any change coming, and failed to prepare out of ignorance. Others might have continued hunting the hypothetically disappearing game until the very last one was eaten, and then starved, refusing to believe that their way of life could possibly change.

Some humans might have seen a change coming, but prepared for the wrong change, or predicted an event that never came to fruition. But what we know is that there were a select few who were either lucky, or smart. I like to think that the survivors were the ones who were not afraid of the light. It seems that people who were the most open to learning, who could consider new ideas, and adapt to their environment would be most suited to survive, and I don’t think that has changed.

This does not mean any new idea should be seized upon and believed wholeheartedly without proper scrutiny; some of those early humans died because they saw the wrong change coming. But equally detrimental was refusing to see the light, and therefore not adjusting reactions to escalating dangers. The ultimate survival skills lie in those who can objectively and rationally consider risks and rewards. Shutting out a new idea is just as likely to end negatively as blind faith in a new idea, or being convinced that the oldest idea is novel.

Moving into the twentieth century, what humans must do to survive is be vigilant and logical. There are those who stand on their front porch and watch as a tsunami rolls in, and there are those who run to the top of mountains to be rescued by aliens who never show. We want to avoid each category. We should learn about the tsunami and assess the weather report: the risk to an area, the scope and magnitude, and the timing. But there’s no harm in hearing out the would be extraterrestrial pilgrims either; just beware of seeing something where there is nothing. Often your instincts will be correct, and there will be no facts behind the theory. However it does not hurt to listen and objectively consider data, you may be surprised by the result and learn things that seem so obvious in hindsight.

Sometimes we are more comfortable in the dark, imagining our hand is visible, than seeing our real environment illuminated. In a place so dark, it does not take much light to see your true surroundings. Don’t continue to imagine that you see your hand in the dark. Be brave, and light the match; it will illuminate things you never knew were there.