I know, the title of this post sounds a little bit like an episode of The Big Bang Theory, but you’re just going to have to live with that. Yes, you guessed it, it’s time to talk a little bit about Daredevil’s radar sense – for the umpteenth time – but this isn’t your typical “Daredevil Science” post. It has more to do with philosophy than the natural sciences, and represents my own take on what I think might be the closest you can get to rendering the radar sense in two dimensions. Actually, make that three dimensions; this little thought experiment actually involves stereograms.

Before we get to the actual images I want you to look at, I’ll just briefly explain why I thought this was a neat idea. You see, the way I personally picture what Matt’s radar sense looks like, from his point of view, is as world of black on black shapes. The reason I arrive at that conclusion is because I can’t fathom what else it could be. There is no color, but there is a three-dimensional awareness of where things are and how far object extend in these dimension (i.e. their shape).

Of course, you might ask (and some of you have), why I think of the radar experience as visual-like at all. Isn’t it supposed to be like “touching everything at once”? On the one hand, this is a compelling idea, which has the added bonus of really bringing home the point that Daredevil, for all his powers, truly is blind. It also makes sense from a real-world perspective in terms of how human echolocation is often described. The phenomenon of object perception among the blind used to be known as “facial vision,” and it wasn’t until 1944 that a study proved definitively that it depended on sound, not some other mechanism. However, the experience is often described as tactile, as feeling like pressure on the skin. In fact, one of the original subjects of the 1944 study, found the idea that his ability was sound-based to be so absurd that it took several failed trials with his ears plugged to convince him that the perception of sound echoes alone accounted for his experience.

However, a recent study of two highly skilled echolocators, has shown that their visual cortex is activated in echolocation tasks whereas such activation is completely absent in sighted controls. This in no way proves that echolocation is experientially “vision-like” in these experts. After all, the visual cortex in the blind is activated in everything from braille reading to the understanding of ultra-fast synthetic speech (it represents vast available neural real estate, after all). Still, it makes sense to me that the more refined the ability becomes, the more difficult it would be for a tactile experience to encompass it, if that makes sense. Vision, on the other hand, is unique in its ability to let us process an entire scene simultaneously. In order for the radar sense (be it sound-based or something more exotic) to be useful for the more complex object identification tasks that Matt Murdock apparently uses it for, it makes more sense to me that it’s processed in a way that mimics some of the properties of sight.

Anyway, let’s get to the simulation portion of this post. In order to get anything out of this at all, you have to be able to generate a 3D image from an autostereogram. Not everyone can do this, but most people should be able to. I have a very easy time with stereograms, and find them pretty fascinating. The trick for me is to look at the image as if you’re looking through it into infinity. These images were made using the online service easystereogrambuilder.com. I then altered the images on my computer to get them as dark as possible without losing the image. Remember that you can enlarge the images by clicking on the once (click again to close), this will make the task much easier. For an answer key to what you’re looking at, just hover over the image and the image’s title text will appear after a second or two. Have fun and don’t forget to comment! 😉

Stereogram image of a cup
Stereogram image of a cup
Stereogram image of a car collision
Stereogram image of a tunnel
Stereogram image of a cup
Stereogram image of a chair, table and lamp

Christine Hanefalk

Christine Hanefalk

Based in Stockholm, Sweden, Christine is a die-hard Daredevil fan who launched The Other Murdock Papers in 2007 to share her passion for Matt Murdock and his friends with other fans.

7 comments

  1. That’s it. I really can’t be a superhero. I’ve never been able to get autostereograms to work for me. (Might be something to do with my existing eye problems, which an optometrist once described as “ridiculous”.) Way to crush my dreams, Christine!

  2. Very interesting concept. I am pretty good at seeing those types of images too (I let my eyes go slightly out of focus and the image pops up) so I got most of them quickly but I had to cheat on the 3rd one. I could see the images but couldn’t make any sense of them, even with the context of the title. I guess that means that depending on the angle, it would be easier or harder to interpret the signals. Just like optical illusions or seeing something out of the corner of your eye that you interpret one way and then see completely differently when you turn to look at it directly.

    … A few minutes later and I was able to see image #3. Maybe my brain had to churn on it for a while.

  3. I don’t know how you do this. I can’t see a thing. I’ve tried these before, but I’ve got nothing. I’ve have to try again later. I’ve been thinking about the Idea of touching everything at once. If you close your hand around an item, you’re getting a lot of information about it. I would even say your getting unique information you could not get with your eyes. If it were a small animal (not that I grab small animals), I would think one could feel breathing, slight muscle movements, or even a heartbeat. These are all thing Matt is often shown to be able to do. And because we really don’t understand the “depth” in which he is able to do these things, this idea opens up an interesting way to imagine his world. At least for me.

  4. Hey guys! So we’ve got one person who can see them, and two who can’t. Bummer!

    @Bill: Regarding the touching everything at once, it’s absolutely true that you can get a lot of information about an object by touching it. In fact, I suspect that Matt would get much more information about every object he encounters by touching it physically as opposed to just relying on his radar. I mean, the radar only tells you about the shape of something (and we’re not talking super-high resolution either) whereas touching something not only gives you more details about that shape, but other things as well (texture, weight, hard versus soft etc). However, my point is that I can’t fathom taking in an entire scene this way. He has to be able to locate many things simultaneously which seems, to me, to lie closer to how we process a visual scene than how we recognize something buy touch.

    However, there is also the idea that the radar sense (or ability, rather) has two different ways of operating or manifesting experientially, depending on whether DD is actively concentrating or not. If we’re talking about his just walking around avoiding obstacles (á la Daredevil #1 from 1964), then it makes total sense to me that that could just be something tactile, along the lines of the “facial vision” experience, but slightly more acute. But to take it one step further and really visualize things more clearly, he may have to actively focus on it. Something like this would fit what actually happens in the comic really well. Countless scenes through the years have suggested that DD’s ability to recognize his surroundings isn’t super-automatic and is often described as an afterthought or something that registers after his other senses have already started analyzing the scene. For an example of this, see the panels from Daredevil #104 (vol 2) under the heading “Echolocation and superhearing” in this post.

  5. I’m Sorry but i cant see them at all.but i was just thinking about it.while this would be a good”picture”perhaps the way someone blind from birth would see i’m not sure this is the way the world would look to Matt. I mean think about this:if you hear a knock at the door in your mind are you going to see “dark 3D shadows” of the knock?not likely.your going to see a shape of some kind of a man knocking at the door.or if you hear the leaves blowing in the wind are you going to see just “black on black”shadows in your mind?i never have.when i did some research online i found that while people who are stone blind cant see anything from a physical stand point that had nothing to do with mentally are they blind?the mind can still give “light”to the pics in our heads.I just thought that since he wasn’t blind from birth that perhaps whenever he hears something like say a glass it instantly draws on his memories of what a glass looked like which would aid him in rendering a picture of the glass.or when he touches a wooden object that it would again draw on the memories he has of what wood looked like before he went blind.i just see his radar/senses as something that triggers his “sighted pics”in his memories as references to paint a picture of his surroundings every time he receives sensory information. thats how one woman who went blind said she recalled that point in her life. she said that true she was blind with her eyes…but not in her mind. she could still”see”her house in her mind by painting a picture of it and it was just like the way it was when she was sighted.I think that a big part that many writers forget when doing the radar is that Matt had sight once upon a time.so he has memories that can be used to picture the world around him in a more or less visual way.like the way Brian Michael bendis did it when he was writing the man without fear….the only thing matt was just missing from those pics was just the color which one could understand seeing as it would be easier to remember a piece of glass then to try and picture the color of it and so forth.

  6. I sort of imagine Matt’s ‘radar sense’ as if you were surrounded by a tube of, say, thin black rubber, and then pushed it out and out away from you so that it moulded over the shapes of everything it touched- but with less detail the further out it went. Not a great description, I know- but that’s kind of how I see it. And surely processing 360 degrees-worth of ‘mentally-tactile’ info would take a great deal of mental energy and concentration. Sure it must be a great relief just to return to the ol’ cane sometimes and give it a rest…

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