In November, we set our clocks an hour forward and officially say good-bye to an hour of daylight every evening. From now until spring, we're going to be spending most of our non-working hours in the dark: commuting home from the office when it's dark, making dinner when it's dark, meeting friends when it's dark, getting the kids to and from a million stupid activities in the dark. Ken Jennings, of Jeopardy! fame, is going to brighten this gloomy month with the light of knowledge, debunking some long-held myths about other nocturnal urban wanderers: the birds and critters you might see on a streetlit November night.
The Debunker: Are Bats Blind?
Bats are creepy flying nightmare-rats, but nature has taken pity on them in their grotesquery, and gifted them with one of the animal kingdom's all-time great superpowers: echolocation. Many bats emit ultrasonic chirps whose echoes they can use to navigate, communicate with other bats, and find prey. In other words, they can hunt at night without using eyesight. But bat-sonar wasn't proven until 1940, when Harvard zoologist Donald Griffin published his landmark paper on the phenomenon. The common expression "blind as a bat," however, dates back to the late 16th century. What gives?