Tag Archive: Quartz

In search of lost sounds

Photo credit: Stas Knop from Pexels

Nicholas Rivero, Quartz, writes about sounds that have been lost to time because humans have only had the ability to record sound since the mid-1800s.  Says Rivero:

That means a great many noises—the call of the wooly mammoth, the first words of early humans, the music of ancient cultures—have fallen silent forever. But thanks to the efforts of a dedicated cohort of scientists, historians, programmers, musicians, and everyday enthusiasts, some lost sounds are making a comeback.

And what follows is a romp through the past, accompanied by links to YouTube videos that let you hear the reconstructed sounds and learn how they were rediscovered. Well worth the click.

Thanks to Lisa Kothari for the link.

Preserving the rainforest’s soundtrack

Photo credit: David Riaño Cortés from Pexels

MIchael J. Coren, Quartz, writes about bioacoustics, a burgeoning field that uses “microphones to capture the aural signature of an ecosystem’s inhabitants from its tiniest creatures to its resident humans.” The goal of bioacoustics is to “monitor biodiversity, on a budget, over vast areas of remote rainforest.” Coren writes about a recent paper in the journal Science, where the authors suggest that bioacoustics “could fill a critical gap for conservation projects” by monitoring the forest’s health after it’s been saved.

Click the link to listen to the recordings that accompany the piece.  Two of them are soundscapes of healthy forests, while the third is clear-cut jungle now worked as a palm oil plantation.  The difference in the range and loudness of sound is apparent.


‘Tis the season…for nonstop Xmas music

Photo credit: Jim Moore licensed under CC BY 2.0

But in what can only be termed a Christmas miracle, a couple of chain stores are offering respite from the annual holiday assault: AutoZone and Costco are your only sanctuaries from Christmas music this winter.  Actually, Amy X. Wang, Quartz, reports that there are two more kind souls, GameStop and WinCo Foods, that have opted to spare their customers from the endless aural assault.

And after calling around, Wang prepared a list showing when various national retailers plan on turning up the Xmas volume. While most retailers exercised some restraint by waiting until Thanksgiving before turning on the forced holiday cheer, Best Buy cruelly began playing Xmas tunes on October 22nd. We grieve for their employees.

Link via Greg, founder of the Soundprint app, the “Yelp for Noise!”

If life is fair, the person responsible for the first open plan office

will spend eternity in his or her own special ring in hell. Whatever the initial motivation for the open floor plan–we recall it was to encourage “collaboration,” which must have been the word du jour at the time–many who followed this “innovation” only did so to reap cost savings. That open floor plans are and were unpopular with the worker bees was dismissed without serious consideration as finance departments and underperforming CEOs gleefully counted pennies (that would soon find their way to their bonus checks).

Sadly, this short-sighted and short-term attempt to shore up shaky financial reports is causing some very real problems.  As Amy X. Wang, Quartz, notes, “[s]tudies have found that lack of sound privacy is the biggest drain on employee morale, and that workers lose as much as 86 minutes a day to distractions.”  In fact, in the last year a flurry of articles have come out that acknowledge the very real costs of open plan offices.  So what will our corporate overlords do?  Will they call in the designers and reconfigure the office space?  Don’t hold your breath.  They will more likely send Wang’s article, “The complete guide to noise-canceling in open offices and other hectic spaces,” to the underlings and go back to surfing the web looking for their next unnecessary purchase.

As for Wang’s advice?  The usual: invest in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, download white noise apps, get a plant, go for a walk.  Saved you a click.

Link via Quiet Revolution: @livequiet.

New research shows reason why it’s easier to work in a coffee shop than in an open office

Startup Stock Photos

Photo Credit: Startup Stock Photos

And the short answer is that conversation and music is more distracting than meaningless noise.  Oliver Staley, writing for Quartz, reports on a study by Takahiro Tamesue, a sound engineer at the University of Yamaguchi, in which research subjects were asked to complete “tasks on computers, like counting the number of times an image flashed, while listening to both unintelligible noise and human speech.”  Tamesue concluded that “[t]he more meaningful noises, like conversations, were the most annoying, and proved to be the most distracting.”  That is, “meaningful noise” leads to “a greater decline in work performance.”

Can someone remind us again why open plan offices are so super awesome?

Thanks to Charles Shamoon for the link.