The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (by gichristof)
Ever wonder what the world sounds like with a hearing implant? At the moment, it’s not the best. One person describes it as hearing everything through a robot voice, and more complex sounds, like music, are almost impossible to comprehend.
Tone and timbre — what make music sound like music — get lost with a cochlear implant, a highly controversial, surgically-implanted device that allows the deaf and hard of hearing to experience sound. Without picking up on timbre, for example, you can’t distinguish the sounds of one instrument from another, so you can’t hear what’s a guitar and what’s a flute if they play the same note.
Now, two scientists are out to change that. A new electronic processing system for implants is currently being developed by electrical engineer Les Atlas and bioengineer Jay Rubinstein at the University of Washington (home to TEDx event TEDxUofW). This new system makes implants more sensitive to complicated sounds, a huge breakthrough that not only makes music sound better, but also helps users distinguish between sounds in a noisy room, which — right now — is really difficult to do with a cochlear implant.
Below — what a pretty famous song sounds like through a normal cochlear implant, thanks to Seattle radio station KPLU:
And now — the same song through Alas and Rubinstein’s new implant:
(If you didn’t pick up on it, that is “Scarborough Fair” by Simon and Garfunkel.)
While we’ve got you thinking about cochlear implants, you can learn more about their relationship with music in Charles Limb’s TEDMED talk on the subject. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t tell you to check out Rachel Kolb’s inspiring TEDxStanford talk on deaf culture and advocacy in a world so often geared toward the hearing:: "Navigating deafness in a hearing world."
You’re smart. Possibly even brilliant. But we’re willing to bet that you’ve got nothing on these kids. (Believe us, we don’t either.)
See, these kids rule. They’re developing mathematical theories before they hit puberty, teaching computers to diagnose breast cancer, analyzing air pollutants, and finding ways to prevent carcinogens forming in grilled chicken. Because what else would you do in grade school?
So to give us all a little hope for the future — 5 TEDx talks from kids who are way smarter than the rest of us:
1. The 10-year-old Princeton student / astrophysicist: Jacob Barnett
At age two, boy genius Jacob Barnett was diagnosed with autism, and doctors told his parents he may never talk or learn. By age nine, not only could he talk and learn, he had already built a series of mathematical models that expanded Einstein’s theory of relativity. He’s funny and boisterous and totally freaking brilliant.
2. The girl who taught a computer to diagnose breast cancer … in middle school: Brittany Wenger
When most of us were cutting out pictures from magazines or stressing about soccer team tryouts, teen wunderkind Brittany Wegner was teaching a computer to diagnose breast cancer. That impressive feat required 600 hours of coding and 7.6 million trials, and has the potential to save millions of lives. So…NBD, really.
3. iPhone app developer … and 6th grader: Thomas Suarez
Most 12-year-olds love playing video games, but Thomas Suarez went a step beyond. He taught himself how to create them. After developing popular iPhone apps like “Bustin Jeiber,” a whack-a-mole game, Thomas is now using his skills to help other kids learn to become developers — that is, when he’s not hanging out with MakerBot co-founder and TED Fellow Bre Pettis.
4. The high school student who created a new way to detect cancer … before he could vote: Jack Andraka
While other kids were struggling to memorize the periodic table or master the structure of DNA, Jack Andraka was busy isolating proteins, reading research papers, and, you know, developing a test to detect pancreatic cancer: one that takes only 3 cents to run and runs at a nearly 100% accuracy rate. Kinda impressive, we think. .
5. Three girls who fight carcinogens, asthma, and chemotherapy resistance in their free time: Lauren Hodge, Shree Bose, Naomi Shah
Here’s a trio of science superstars for you: Lauren Hodge discovered how crafty cooking can stop carcinogenic compounds forming in grilled chicken; Shree Bose spent 12 years researching how cancer patients develop resistance to chemotherapy drugs; and Naomi Shah discovered new ways to approach asthma after analyzing indoor air pollutants, air quality, and lung health. Isn’t that what everyone does in their free time?