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  • -Daredevil is a really interesting character--

  • a hero who is blinded at a young age

  • by radioactive chemicals that peaked

  • his other senses to superhuman levels,

  • as well as granting him a radar sense.

  • The question is how much can Daredevil

  • "see" despite his blindness

  • [MUSIC]

  • Welcome to Comic Misconceptions.

  • I'm Scott.

  • And the Daredevil Netflix series has definitely

  • been drawing more attention to the Man Without Fear.

  • I, for one, am glad about that.

  • Daredevil is a great character and not just

  • because he definitely created the Teenage Mutant Ninja

  • Turtles, as I've talked about before,

  • but because his powers raise some interesting questions

  • about the ideas of human perception.

  • But first, a little background on the character.

  • When Daredevil debuted in "Daredevil Number 1" from 1964,

  • we see the accident that blinded him.

  • A young Matt Murdock was saving an old blind man

  • who was crossing the street from being

  • hit by a runaway truck carrying containers

  • of radioactive materials.

  • A container fell out of the truck,

  • and the radioactive chemicals washed into his eyes,

  • leaving Matt blinded.

  • But the story doesn't end there.

  • As Matt grows up, he starts to realize that his other senses

  • have become very sensitive.

  • And that allows him to perceive and navigate

  • the world in a different way than those who can see.

  • And he uses these new abilities to fight crime as Daredevil.

  • He can hear faint sounds, including people's heartbeats,

  • and to tell if they're lying.

  • His fingers have become so sensitive

  • that he can read newspapers just by feeling the impressions

  • of the ink on the page.

  • And his sense of smell and taste have also

  • been heightened, as well.

  • And if we look at real life cases, this sort of thing

  • is not too far off.

  • Radiation aside, studies have shown

  • that people missing one sense, like sight or hearing,

  • actually do compensate with their remaining senses.

  • Blind people, like Matt Murdock, can learn to process other

  • information from hearing, touch, and smell in ways that seeing

  • people can't.

  • The reason for this isn't that blind people's ears and noses

  • go through a physical change that allows them to hear

  • and smell better.

  • They're still working with the same hardware.

  • They just haven't upgraded software in their brains.

  • You're born with a part of your brain called

  • the visual cortex that is responsible for processing

  • all the visual information you take in.

  • So if you are blind, what happens to your visual cortex?

  • Does it just simply sit there, taking up room, not

  • really doing anything valuable?

  • Interestingly, no.

  • Your brain will actually rewire itself

  • to make use of the visual processing

  • center in different ways.

  • For example, studies have shown that blind people can recruit

  • their visual cortex for other processes,

  • like hearing, touch, and even vocabulary, which could come in

  • handy with Daredevil's day job as a lawyer-- needing to throw

  • around lots of big words.

  • Essentially, the brain will restructure itself to further

  • augment the remaining senses.

  • And this phenomenon is known as cross-modal neuralplasticity.

  • How's that for big words?

  • Before I go any further, I feel the need

  • to point out a few things.

  • Number one, I am far from an expert in any of this,

  • but I put links to where I've gotten this information

  • from in the description.

  • And number two, the research for this is still going on.

  • So anything I say in this video could

  • change as new studies are done and new information is

  • discovered.

  • But OK, back to how Daredevil can "see."

  • So the part of his brain used for seeing

  • is now being taken over to process

  • other sorts of information through hearing and touch.

  • And that's helping Matt Murdock navigate the world around him

  • in a different way, but still a pretty effective one.

  • There are a few caveats here, though.

  • Firstly, for this sort of thing to happen to its fullest

  • ability, you would need to be blinded young

  • while the brain is way more plastic and still able

  • to reorganize itself.

  • With Daredevil, this is definitely

  • the case since the accident that blinded him happened

  • when he was a youngster.

  • Another issue is that cross-modal reorganization

  • could cause problems if Daredevil ever

  • got his sight back.

  • If this happened, he probably wouldn't

  • know what to do with all that new visual information that's

  • coming into his brain.

  • He'd have to stop fighting crime and learn how to process it

  • all-- and relearn how to fight crime differently

  • than he has been doing for years,

  • which could be frustrating.

  • He would likely be worse off since his brain is so used

  • to his blindness.

  • Matt getting his sight back has happened

  • a few times in the comics, but usually through magic

  • so I guess we could just assume that magic also

  • rewired his brain to that of a seeing person, as well.

  • I don't know.

  • Now, interestingly, cross-modal plasticity

  • can also be a link to acquiring synesthesia.

  • Synesthesia literally means joined perception and comes

  • in all kinds of different flavors.

  • Sometimes, literally.

  • It's when two or more senses are perceived simultaneously,

  • like hearing a sound and then instantly and involuntarily

  • sensing a smell or taste or color

  • or a physical feeling that goes along with it.

  • Essentially, input from one sense

  • triggers another automatically.

  • For the most part, synesthesia is genetic.

  • And you can't acquire it if you don't already have it.

  • However, there is research to suggest that blind people do

  • start to acquire a kind of synesthesia

  • as their brain restructures itself

  • due to the loss of sight.

  • Some blind people say that they see flashes of light

  • when they listen to music, for example.

  • Daredevil definitely seems to be a synesthi.

  • This one panel in "Daredevil Number 9" from 1999

  • shows him playing on the piano and sensing the sounds

  • from the different chords as colors, smells, and tastes,

  • saying things like how C major smells like old boxing gloves,

  • E major is a coppery taste, and E minor

  • is the glow of neon in the dark.

  • Whether he was born with it or acquired

  • it due to his brain reorganizing itself,

  • or maybe even that comic book magic that

  • is the radioactive material he absorbed.

  • It is unknown.

  • But it's another little tidbit about the character

  • that I find neat.

  • So we've covered Daredevil's heightened senses

  • that allow him to "see" the world around him

  • in a different way and his apparent synesthesia that

  • allows him to "see" sounds.

  • But what about his most important power?

  • His radar sense.

  • The radar sense is possibly the most confusing part

  • about Daredevil, in my opinion.

  • Over the years, there have been many different interpretations

  • of it in the comics that range vastly.

  • And there has yet to be a truly standardized description

  • and explanation for this power.

  • In fact, there's a great seven part article

  • I'll link to you below on theothermurdockpapers.com that

  • chronicles the changes made to Daredevil's radar

  • sense over the years-- things like how it works,

  • what exactly is it capable of, and even different artists'

  • renditions of it in action.

  • I will give you the "Cliff's Notes" version, because it

  • is incredibly inconsistent.

  • Sometimes, it can see through walls and other solid objects.

  • Other times, it gets obstructed by plants and gas clouds.

  • Sometimes he sees extreme details,

  • and other times it's more like basic outlines and shapes.

  • Sometimes it's linked to his sense of hearing,

  • like a form of echolocation.

  • In "Daredevil Number 167," we see

  • it described like that of a bat.

  • It says, quote, "He emits probing, high frequency waves."

  • Waves, which break against any solid object and breaking

  • send back signals audible only to Daredevil.

  • From these signals, his brain instantly

  • forms silhouette images of everything around him.

  • In this manner, he "sees" in every direction.

  • Lots of air quotes today.

  • Other times, he describes his radar sense

  • like touch with a, quote, "sort of tactile facet to it."

  • There have been a few instances where he relates it

  • to feeling objects around him, saying

  • that it's like reaching out and touching everything at once.

  • And still other times, it's described

  • as a completely new, independent sense that

  • isn't affected at all by sounds or smells or touch.

  • He once said that his radar sense

  • allows him to be aware of his surroundings

  • when all of his other senses fail.

  • Now because of these and many other seemingly inconsistent

  • qualities, it's hard to pinpoint exactly what is going

  • on here with the radar sense.

  • Though, it is probably safe to assume that it's not literally

  • radar, but rather that's simply a metaphor that helps us seeing

  • people understand it better.

  • In fact, maybe that's the problem.

  • Maybe the writers and artists and readers

  • like us will always have a hard time determining

  • precisely what the radar sense is like, because we

  • don't have one.

  • So we're left trying to make sense of it

  • with vocabulary that doesn't exist.

  • In his book, "Through the Language Glass,"

  • author Guy Deutscher talks about the fascinating connections

  • between language, culture, and thought.

  • It's really interesting, and there's also

  • a Radio Lab episode I'll put in the description

  • if you want to listen to it.

  • In it, they talk about how just having a word for something

  • kind of unlocks your ability to notice

  • or consciously perceive that thing.

  • The example they give is the color blue.

  • So most cultures throughout history

  • didn't have a word for the color blue

  • until very late in the game.

  • And some cultures still don't have a word for it.

  • So they aren't able to determine the difference

  • between blue and green.

  • Their eyes can still physically register the color blue,

  • but their minds aren't aware that it's

  • any different than green, because they

  • haven't categorized their colors in the same way that we have.

  • Homer, for example, never used the color blue

  • when writing "The Iliad."

  • Instead, he would describe this sea as, for instance,

  • "wine dark."

  • There simply wasn't a word for blue

  • at the time he was writing.

  • So describing it as wine dark is something

  • that made perfect sense to the culture at the time.

  • Now how this applies to Daredevil, I think,

  • is that Matt Murdock-- and, therefore,

  • the writers and artists telling the story--

  • have to try and explain the radar sense in terms

  • that we understand it, even though it might not be entirely

  • correct or even satisfying.

  • So Daredevil relates his sense to sounds and touch,

  • and radar, obviously, so that we can

  • try to understand it at least a little bit better.

  • Think of it like an infrared camera.

  • We can't see infrared with the naked eye,

  • so special cameras have to take the data

  • and turn it into visible light that we can see.

  • In a similar way, the images that we

  • see in Daredevil comics that show how the world looks to him

  • might not be accurate, but is instead just

  • an artist's interpretation of what it might be like.

  • Interestingly, Stick, a blind master martial

  • artist who trained Daredevil, explains

  • that all humans have this radar sense naturally

  • built into our brains, but we rely too heavily on vision

  • and end up pushing it aside, never fully

  • being able to access it without intense training.

  • This, again, makes it seem like the radar sense is