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July 25, 2006

BehindTheMedspeak: 'How noise can make you smarter'


Say what?

Noise makes me crazy, not smarter.

Around here silence is golden — except when it's bookofjoe time, which is often.

Then it's 10/10 on the volume control and Prince or The Who providing accompaniment, so insanely loud that I can't hear people pounding at the front door asking me to sign for a package or whatever.

So loud that the guy driving around mowing my lawn isn't even on my radar until he enters my visual field.

But I digress.

In the new (August) issue of Wired magazine is a Q&A with Bart Kosko, a professor at the University of Southern California whose upcoming book, "Noise," argues "that even the most annoying racket can be beneficial."

Interviewer Bob Parks asked Kosko, "Can background music make you smarter?"

His reply: "The more you can concentrate with background noise, the more it strengthens the brain. Isaac Asimov used to set his typewriter up in stores and other loud places to work. His claim was that you get really good at writing when you're in a crowd. You want to be energized by that background noise, rather than distracted."

That's good enough for me.

I think it's time to step up to a bigger boombox.

For a sense of how Kosko thinks, you could do worse than spend a few minutes here.

Here is a link to his Wikipedia entry.

FunFact: Asimov kept a number of typewriters in his New York apartment, each with a different book in progress, so that he could simply move to another when he got tired of working on a particular one.

July 25, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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I miss writing on typewriters....really.

Posted by: Mb | Jul 25, 2006 7:58:55 PM

During my piccolo-playing gigs at high school & college football games I always took a book and read in between numbers. The noise was so relentless and overwhelming it had the effect of cancelling itself out, rendering it an ideal reading condition. Now, did it make me smarter? Well, I was able, finally, after much diligence, to distinguish shit from shinola. Just.

Posted by: Flutist | Jul 25, 2006 1:26:30 PM

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