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Chile University Projects Loudspeaker for Blinds to Experience Solar Eclipse

"This allows people who can't see the eclipse to hear it," said the scientist. "As astronomers, this excites us"

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solar eclipse
People react while observing a solar eclipse at Incahuasi, a mountain in Chile, July 2, 2019. VOA

In the minutes before a solar eclipse plunged Chile into darkness, a loudspeaker projected a deep baritone to a group of blind men and women who had traveled to the Atacama desert to “hear” what hundreds of thousands of others had come to see.

Then, a moment of silence until the sunlight, and the sound, returned. Tourists from around the globe converged on the northern Chilean desert on Tuesday to witness the total eclipse under the world’s clearest skies.

University of Valparaiso

The musical experience, orchestrated by Chile’s University of Valparaiso, was designed to help blind people, or those with some level of visual impairment, experience the phenomenon through a change in the frequency of sounds.

“It was exciting, incredible, a magical experience,” said Octavio Oyarzún, 41, one of the thousands of people who came to the small town of Cachiyuyo, about 600 km (373 miles) north of Santiago. A professor of music and blind from birth, Oyarzún traveled from the nearby port of Caldera to “listen” to the eclipse, the first in the region since 1592, according to Chilean astronomers.

solar eclipse
A man looks up at a total solar eclipse in La Higuera, Chile, July 2, 2019. VOA

“It’s like a gift from science to be able to live this sensitive experience that we could not otherwise experience,” added Oyarzún, who is married to a blind woman with whom he has two children who can see. “I feel like a bridge to the unknown, something that makes it possible to translate into the world of sounds what would be a mystery to us,” he added.

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Lightsound “translates” light into sound

The sound-making device, called Lightsound, was developed by Puerto Rican astrophysicist Wanda Díaz Merced. It “translates” a greater amount of light into high-pitched sounds and greater darkness into bass sounds, Chilean astronomer Catalina Arcos told Reuters.

Arcos, a professor at the Institute of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Valparaíso, helped to organize the observation site in Cachiyuyo, a town of less than 300.

“This allows people who can’t see the eclipse to hear it,” said the scientist. “As astronomers, this excites us.” Denisse Reyes, 34, said the experience surprised her. “I can perceive lights, I can recognize day and night, but this amazed me. I felt like I was entering the mysterious world of the planets and the solar system,” she said. (VOA)

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Chile to Begin Budgeting for Costs of Fighting Climate Change

Chile will begin budgeting for the costs of fighting climate change, Finance Minister Felipe Larrain announced Tuesday, as receding glaciers

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Chile, Budgeting, Climate Change
FILE - Chile's Finance Minister Felipe Larrain attends an interview with Reuters at the OECD headquarters in Paris, France, May 31, 2018. VOA

Chile will begin budgeting for the costs of fighting climate change, Finance Minister Felipe Larrain announced Tuesday, as receding glaciers and drought put a squeeze on water and natural resources in the world’s top copper producer.

The South American nation, which is due to host the COP25 global conference on climate change in December, said it would include a new line item for “climate expenditures” in its government budgets beginning in 2020.

“Currently, we don’t know how much we’re spending in the financing of climate action. The lack of information makes it difficult to make good decisions,” Larrain told reporters.

The methodology, called the Climate Public Expenditures and Institutional Review (CPEIR), is sponsored in part by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and has received funding from Germany. It includes a tool that allows countries to more precisely track how much money is spent on fighting climate change.

Chile, Budgeting, Climate Change
FILE – The Codelco El Teniente copper mine, the world’s largest underground copper mine, is shown near Machali, Chile, April 11, 2019. VOA

Larrain said the tool would allow Chile to “assess … the costs of inaction, that is, incorporate the analysis of the cost of not implementing immediate and timely measures.”

A years-long drought in Chile, coupled with a growing population and a sprawling copper and lithium mining industry thirsty for water, have forced Chilean officials to look more closely at the costs of climate change.

“The lands threatened by desertification exceed 60% of the national territory. … Having an estimate of the critical investments we must make to address the issue of desertification and soil erosion can have a great impact,” he said.

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The CPEIR methodology is already applied in more than 30 countries, including Colombia and Ecuador. (VOA)