Shooting Down a Lost Drone and why Dogs Tilt their Heads – Smarter Every Day 173

Hey, it’s me Destin welcome back to Smarter Every Day I’m in the middle of the woods. My son lost a cheap little drone and the only way we can figure out where it’s at is we are powering it up and listening to where it is, and it’s really got me thinking about directional hearing. To bring you up to speed real quick, my sister bought my son a toy drone which of course he immediately went outside and flew as high as he could and let the wind carry it off into the woods, way out of sight. All we knew is that it was in a huge section of the forest. Now, problem-solving is an important skill that I always try to teach my children So, first I’ll let him wander around aimlessly for a bit – of course not finding it and then I decided it was time to start our little adventure. First, we all spread out in the woods and got real quiet We then activated the drone and used our directional hearing to see if we thought we knew where it was coming from. It was super faint so each walked in the direction. We thought it was coming from and we all stopped, got quiet again, and then reactivated it. At this time, we were a little bit closer. So we felt more confident with our directional hearing and we moved in that direction. With three of us, we were able to easily triangulate it even though we couldn’t see it, but this is where it got weird. We had absolutely no idea how far up the tree it was. It was like our directional hearing somehow worked in the horizontal plane But in the vertical plane it just didn’t work. Right now we’ve isolated it to this tree. We think but we’re not really sure… exactly where. But we’re using our stereo hearing in order to find it. It’s really cool Son’s bringing some binoculars. Look up in the tree. That’s where I hear it It is in that tree. I hear it in that tree. Okay Where? For you, you see that branch right there and the branch is covering it up. Oh, do it again. There it is That’s it. Okay. I think we can do this. Son, go get a rifle. So we found it just in time you got it. Yeah, do it up? You’re freaking awesome. Did it come down? Safe the weapon, stand by. Ah ah ah Get back! Get on the ground Make sure the weapon’s cold I know we’re excited, let’s be safe. We did it. We got it! Weapon’s safe, let’s go get it. All right, Aunt Briley gave you a Christmas present and then she saved your Christmas present. So that’s pretty cool. That is the power of the directional hearing that our bodies have because if you think about it One ear to the other one if I have a sound on this side the sound hits this ear one millisecond before it hits this ear and The higher frequencies are muffled out by the time it gets over here because that sound goes across my face We just use that to find this. But you know what I think is interesting? How can you find something? How did you know it was up high? I don’t know. I don’t either. This is a really good question Think about it. If there’s a sound directly in front of you, and you hear it It’s stimulating both of your ears at the exact same time Because the distance is the same, right? If you take that same sound and you move it vertically, the same is true So you can’t resolve a vertical position directly in front of you with temporal cues, meaning time. It has to be something else. It wasn’t until I found an experiment performed on the YouTube channel called Scilabus that I understood the answer to the problem. It’s called spectral cues. If you think about a sound across the room, it’s going to go to your ear and bounce off of your ear and down into your ear hole If you have a sound from below, It’s going to bounce off a different part of your ear and then into your ear hole That is going to change the sound before it goes into your body and your brain has developed this complex algorithm It has to do with the area of study called psycho acoustics, and it will tell your brain Exactly where it is in the vertical axis based on frequency and spectral cues and that is amazing. I watched a video on Vivian’s channel, Scilabus, about how to test this and you can do this at your own home, so I would encourage you to go watch her video But I wanted to do it with my son, so we’re going to illustrate this with my son here See we’ve got this big setup. What I’m going to do is I’m going to take my hands and I’m going to clap it like this (clapping) and you point to exactly the spot where the sound is coming from. Can you do that? Try it. (clapping) Are you cool being blindfolded?
“I’m fine with that.” Okay, here’s the deal, his brain is calibrated for the spectral cues off of his shaped ear. If we were to pack Play-Doh in the pinna, that’s going to change the spectrum that comes down into his ear and he’s not going to be able to calculate the position in the vertical axis. I learned this from Scilabus. Vivian did a really cool experiment go check it out on her channel. Anyway, let’s do the clappy thing again. So what you’ll notice is if we’re on the left or the right, he gets it almost every time, but he has a hard time with the vertical axis. He can’t even tell if it’s forward or back I was clapping right between your legs and you pointed up. “What?” Do you realize how awesome that is? Let’s just use all the big words. We just derailed the psycho-acoustic filter in my son’s brain by negating his ability to use temporal cues because of the position of the sound, but driving him to not being able to trust his spectral cues because we dampened down the pinna which is the floppy parts on the outside of his head by using Play-doh. So he couldn’t figure out where the sound was coming from. That’s fascinating. The cool thing about this is that dogs don’t really do it that well. Have you ever said something to a dog and he kind of does his head like that? What he’s doing is he’s trying to cheat a little bit. The dog’s putting one year above the other so they can resolve vertical position. That’s amazing. They’re using temporal cues. They’re cheating with temporal cues to try to get something that we get with spectral cues I’ve never thought about this, and the reason that’s important is because I have a whole YouTube channel you didn’t know about, probably. It’s called The Sound Traveler. I have been recording video for years now where I put bineural microphones in my ear And if you wear headphones and watch the video that I’m recording it tricks your brain into thinking you’re there based on these temporal cues. Okay, tell them about the thing we do.
Briley: “So there’s a second YouTube channel. It’s called The Sound Traveler. We go around the world and we record experiences with bineural audio. I’ve gone to Thailand and DC. Destin’s done Iceland, Germany…”
I went to Iceland and Germany Briley: “Yup, we’re going to Colombia soon. Uh, and it’s it’s a really chill channel. It’s just like experiencing travel in a different way.”
Yeah, it’s pretty cool It’s not like a full-on like trying to win youtube kind of thing, but it’s an experiment in immersive 3D audio with a GoPro on your head. It’s really fun! Anyway, I think you’ll dig it. Briley: “If you have headphones on, just go check it out.”
Yeah, put your headphones on, check it out. It’s called The Sound Traveler. I’ll leave the link in the video description I would love to get that over a hundred thousand subscribers. It’s something I really love. Ok that’s it for this episode of Smarter Every Day. I hope you enjoyed it. You may know that Audible’s been sponsoring Smarter Every Day for a really long time. I love it. I love to use my ears to get smarter and I do that with Audible. If you want to check out a free trial go to We’ve recently started introducing audible books to my children who loved it. Here’s a hack for you. If you want to get like five books for the price of one, then get something called the enchanted collection or the adventure collection. It’s 40 hours of audio books like White Fang, Gulliver’s Travels, all kinds of cool stuff. Get the enchanted collection or the adventure collection at That’s it. I’ll leave links to everything in the video description. I hope this video earned your subscription. If not, no big deal. I hope from now on if you hear a sound, you think about where it’s coming from, why you know it’s coming from that position, whether it’s temporal cues or spectral cues, and I also hope every time you see a dog do this you know that he’s cheating. He’s trying to use temporal cues instead of spectral cues which is pretty doggone cool. Anyway, I’m destin, you’re getting smarter every day. Have a good one. Don’t cheat. It’s important that you don’t cheat. We need the data, okay? And you shot it, didn’t you?
Briley: “I did. I didn’t mean to. I meant to shoot the branch.” I think that’s why it came down though.
Briley: “It’ll still be good.” You realize we used all of our country super powers to do that?
Briley: “Pulled out every single stop that we had.” Briley: “Let’s zero in this – let’s zero in this scope with those cans.” Hey man, we did! We zeroed the scope with old cans. And then we got…

100 thoughts on “Shooting Down a Lost Drone and why Dogs Tilt their Heads – Smarter Every Day 173

  1. Thank you to those who are taking the "blood oath covenant" seriously. (LOL.) I look forward to your tweets. Also, thanks to Patreon supporters for the Pupper videos!

  2. I am a huge fan (and supporter) but I find the use of guns in these videos to be unsettling. I am not suggesting any impropriety (and it's obviously integral to the "shooting down" idea) but, watching from the UK, this ready familiarity with guns is disturbing. I realise that this looks normal in the US – but if you want to build a worldwide audience, this is NOT a plus.

  3. A question I've had before. So the main problem with normal thinking is the assumption that the ears a simply ponts (as is usual in physics), but its actual 3D shape helps differentiate those "vertical" (as Destin labels) corner cases

  4. I want to thank Smarter Every Day for exacerbating my life-long inability to make a definitive decision on which science to focus upon, based upon level of interest—EVERYTHING INTERESTS ME! Thumbs up.

  5. So would it be safe to say that if you left your sons ear packed with play dough eventually his brain could relearn.

  6. So how does this 3D microphones work if you need your ear's shape in order to really have positional audio? You will be just injecting into my ears the filters from your ear.

  7. thats why Owl has un-vertical-lined-up ear by default. and i just want to tell you to tilt your head, but your video mention that why dog tilting. learning from nature can help to solve robotic problem efficiently

  8. When I heard it in the video I knew where it was in the tree and I was correct because I an a hunter in Trinidad I am 14

  9. Now it makes more sense why someone who wears hearing aids cannot tell the direction of sounds. Other then the left or right, mostly.

  10. standby, check brought some good ole range memories…said no one ever. However, I do remember a time during FMTB where a guy got brass caught in between his plate carrier and blouse. Flagged everyone on line…never saw a gunny run as fast and disarm someone so quick in my life.

  11. Love the use of a firearm (tool) to intelligently and efficiently (suitable device) solve a problem. Take that Democrats!

  12. I admire that Destin reminded his kids about gun safety before going off to retrieve the drone.
    That, and the "Son, go get a rifle" is hilarious.

  13. 3:30 That's what I would have thought, but still never thought about it, or the brain's analysis of spectral cues, that is pretty amazing when you can appreciate the mechanics

  14. that´s cool, simplifying. But thinking in those children that their parents are always off because of hard work till 10 hours/day working for a foreign corporation that it is milking their resources out of their reach or because they are hidden from an occidental army that is freaking them out and they just don't have time neither the humor to do those smart and fun experiments with their children. Anyway, I could say everyone can solve those issues by them selfs but maybe not rationalize them in a fun way with the family. Those poor people that went alone throughout it they just make those skills work with other purposes normally out of fun context, more likely real needs in survival matters. The creepy thing I see in this fun video of your good life it is because you have plenty of time after being a reserve soldier, so your society rewards you for going to harass other people without complaining, fulfilling orders even with no real reason for the profit of a minority that you´ll never know and then and only then you´ll have a good life and make some funny videos and play with your children, If you survive of course. Maybe some of your army fellows' children, their reward indirectly it´s because their father just died in the course. This is clearly your message. I would like you to think about it. maybe every society must warranty all citizens a similar life that you´ve got without needing to invade or interfere in others' life to get what was your/their rights of being a human. sorry for my googled english, I think you will get it for sure.

  15. I always thought destin's sister was his wife.. turns out his wife is a fat cow. His sister is smokin. What the heck happened

  16. is it the vibration on the pena that does it, or dose the part of the pena it reflects from eq the sound slightly to help seance the height? or somthing els?

  17. Someone loses drone in woods
    European “let’s go and get a ladder and shake the tree see if we can get it down”
    American “*get the AR15*”


    Almost all comments here is about the sentence: "Son, go get a rifle"
    (felt a bit weird to me, but i don't judge)

  19. Also you can detect where the drone is horizontally because the drone's horizontal position is changing relative to where you move. The difference in direction is what you're hearing. The drone's vertical position didn't really change in relationship to where you were walking. If you could fly up and down and hear the drone you'd be able to tell how high up the tree it is.

  20. Commenting at 3 47 before I proceed with the video. Firstly I don't do twitter secondly I wouldn't know how to apply cupcakes to a laminar flow problem and demonstrating laminar flow with cupcakes.. well I dont have time to make that many cupcakes!
    When out in the woods I realize after watching this far, I tip and turn my head to locate sound sources in the woods.

    As a S.C.U.B.A. diver I can recommend the challenge of trying to calculate sound sources underwater. We used to try this with wreck buoys on windy days and we would listen for the clanking chains underwater. Even taking a compass sight on the surface and then navigating a quarter mile at 30-40 ft without surfacing it was rare to find the chain unless the wreck was shallow enough to make out from 40'. Currents move you and the sound of the chain hits both ears almost simultaneously. Certainly too fast for your ear to make a directional determination. This exercise met with a 90% failure rate over several trips.

    This was a great video I don't know why I didn't see it sooner. I am also subscribed to The Sound Traveler but for some reason notifications were not on so, I have some catching up to do! Thank you!

  21. Ill tell you what Dustin , any child around you will inherently become smarter without knowing why if they keep there ears open . Like a sponge, they will be smarter then you when your gone . That’s a good thing

  22. Hi, watching this was amazing. Brought me to a question:
    How do motorcyclists navigate – is it based only on visual cues?
    Helmets squish your ears enough to deform the outer ear.

  23. So, if someone has a condition such as wrestler's ear aka a perichondrial hematoma, would this act as a sort of permanent play dough handicapping the individual like in this experiment or does the body adapt?

  24. Got the drone on the second shot, nice! Meanwhile…Two miles away…..a guy is washing his car….there is a faint “Phut!” and the guy drops dead with a hole in his head…It can happen!

  25. What was the gun set up that “ Annie Oakley” used? That was a great shot. In California that would be almost a felony. I like your sound explanation. But how about just coping your hand over your ears and tilting upward. A rolled up pice of paper shaped like a cone would work better.

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