Blind Baseball

“C’mon Blake, smack the beep out of the ball!” calls one of the Houston Heat players. Blake swings, and hits a searing grounder to left field. He tears off for first base and arrives there safely. His teammates clap and cheer. Bobby, who is about 25 and has a classic ball-player’s physique, is up next. He approaches the plate slowly swinging his bat to loosen himself. “Close-in on the plate Bobby” his coach suggests. The pitcher takes the ball and . . . “Time out – airplane overhead – can’t hear the ball”, one of the fielders yells.

Silent But Deadly

It’s a noisy world, and getting noisier. This is why there’s been such strong reaction to the news that a number of car companies and the U.S. Congress are discussing whether sounds should be added to quiet hybrid cars. But as a scientist studying the problem, I bring good news. We can have it both ways. Hybrid cars can stay quiet, and still provide enough sound to be safe for all of us.

You Drink What You Think

You sit down at your table and order your meal. The waiter then comes back with a bottle of wine and tells you that it’s on the house. They’re running a promotion for a new cabernet from, of all places, North Dakota. You haven’t heard of the wine but what the heck, it’s free. What would you think of it? Not much, as it turns out. At least not as much as if you were told the wine was from California. In fact, thinking the wine was from North Dakota, you’d drink less of it, and would even eat less of your food.

How Words Feel

I just met Rick Joy and he’s already touching my face. His right hand’s thumb is resting vertically on my chin, with its tip brushing against my bottom lip. His index finger is curled under my chin and his remaining three fingers touch my neck and Adam’s apple. This might seem like a particularly awkward interaction for people who’ve just met. But any awkwardness is quickly dispelled by Rick’s warmth and humor. Also, touching my face is the only way he can understand my questions. Rick Joy is deaf and blind.

Mountain Biking with the Blind

I expect some stares as we walk into the bike shop, and we get them. My companions are both blind, leading with white canes, and one is rolling in his ailing mountain bike. I’m also not surprised when the salesman approaches me to ask what we need. But then one of my companions, Daniel Kish, answers that he’s looking for a new tube “24 inches, latex, with a Presta valve”. The salesman quickly realizes that despite appearances, Daniel is the experienced rider.