This Week in Sound: Bat Mimicry, Cairo Field Recordings, Apraxia Achievement

A lightly annotated clipping service

These sound-studies highlights of the week are lightly adapted from the May 23, 2022, issue of the free Disquiet.com weekly email newsletter This Week in Sound (tinyletter.com/disquiet).

As always, if you find sonic news of interest, please share it with me, and (except with the most widespread of news items) I’ll credit you should I mention it here.

There is “a species of bat that mimics the buzzing sound of stinging insects like hornets to deceive owls that might otherwise eat them.” This rare circumstance is called acoustic Batesian mimicry. “Mimicry is just such a powerful idea in science and evolutionary biology in particular,” said an evolutionary biologist, David Pfennig. “It shows how you can get remarkable adaptations even among really distantly related groups.” ➔ nytimes.com

“For the past several years, Youssef Sherif, 28, and Nehal Ezz, 26, have wandered the Egyptian capital in search of the cries of street vendors, the tap tap tap of metal workers in their shops, the cacophony of chaotic traffic. Their goal is to capture in recordings what Cairo sounds like — right here, right now — before these noises disappear. They are collecting the sounds to share on an Instagram account and eventually hope to establish a searchable database of sounds.” This Washington Post story does a great job of incorporating examples of the sounds into the feature presentation. ➔ washingtonpost.com (Thanks, Rob Walker!)

A lawsuit claims that the eardrums of a 12-year-old boy were damaged by Apple AirPods. The cause, with some irony, was an Amber Alert, which of course was designed to protect children from abduction. ➔ macrumors.com

UC Berkeley graduated its first two students with apraxia, due to which they are non-speaking. Both are autistic. One, David Teplitz, “graduated with a 3.85 GPA, receiving a degree in political science with a minor in disability studies.” The other, Hari Srinivasen, “graduated with a 4.0 GPA and has now received a fellowship to pursue his Ph.D. in neuroscience at Vanderbilt University.” ➔ abc7news.com

Come to Jennifer Flowers’ article in the current issue of Bloomberg Businessweek (probably my single favorite magazine, I should mention) for details of birders who listen before they look (birding by ear, not by eye), and then stay for the former guerrilla fighters in Colombia who now escort naturalist travelers: “Once you get to know your own territory and realize there’s a rich and biodiverse forest to protect, you won’t go to war,” one tells her. ➔ bloomberg.com

McDonald’s used voice ID to identify repeat customers, leading to a lawsuit. American Airlines, Amazon, Google, and PetSmart have also faced lawsuits about voice privacy. ““Voiceprint litigation is venomous instead of infectious,” says one lawyer. “It goes in so many different directions, every case is so different, and it’s still growing.” ➔ bloomberglaw.com

“What is this weird animal sound I recorded?” asks my friend Mark Frauenfelder, on Boing Boing, recently returned from a trip to the island of Madeira: ➔ boingboing.net

Yes, you want to know how to silence someone else’s phone’s alarm.macrumors.com

Spring break may be for young lovers, but Great Barrier Reef fish are facing decreasing life expectancy due to motorboat noise.newscientist.com

It may mean nothing, but machine listening was listed in the summary of just one of the top ten AI graduate degree programs (University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign). ➔ cio.com

A new pair of Sony headphones come with the Endel software’s generative soundscapes built in. They’re called the LinkBuds. A journalist who hadn’t heard previously of Endel described it as follows: “It’s less a standard streaming service like Spotify and Apple Music, and more an algorithmically generated mood enhancer.” ➔ techcrunch.com

Google is adding to videos “audio descriptions that verbally explain what’s shown on screen.” Google is also expanding Project Euphonia: “a research initiative that the company introduced in 2019 to work with people with speech impairments to create more accommodating speech recognition models.” ➔ androidpolice.com, research.google

“The US Federal Communications Commission has prioritized fighting illegal robocalls over the past few years, and the agency continues to turn up the heat in 2022. Last week, the agency passed regulations targeted at overseas phone scammers, but the push to end robocalls is far from finished.” ➔ 9to5mac.com

For the Birds is the title of a massive collection of audio recordings of and related to birdsong. There are 242 tracks in all “of original songs and readings inspired by or incorporating birdsong.” The National Audubon Society will release it as a 20-LP box set later in 2022: “A radiant electronic trance from Dan Deacon and a Beatles interpretation from Elvis Costello share space with a Jonathan Franzen reading; Laurie Anderson, Alice Coltrane (remixed), Yoko Ono and a reading from Wendell Pierce open separate LPs.” ➔ nytimes.com

Supercuts can be automated to find every instance of a word from a long single video and trim to highlight the numerous examples. Here’s how: ➔ lav.io

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