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The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind Hardcover – September 4, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-1608190904 ISBN-10: 1608190900
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Brown University neuroscientist Horowitz has pulled off an unusual feat. His science book, about the way hearing shapes the “evolution, development, and day-to-day function of the mind,” can be genuinely poetic. It is also laced with humor. Horowitz says he attempted less a text than a venue for imparting “wonder.” He succeeds, unearthing one little-known gem after another.

From Booklist

We live in a sonic world. Sounds and vibration affect our mood, memories, and mind. Neuroscientist Horowitz’s aim is to amp up understanding and respect for our auditory environment. He draws on physiology, physics, and psychology to demonstrate “how sound and hearing have shaped the evolution, development, and day-to-day function of the mind.” Sound assists in mating, playing, and acquiring food. Hearing helps us stay vigilant and monitor our surroundings. Horowitz contemplates the difficulty in defining music and how it influences the mind. He highlights the power of acoustics by invoking our usual reaction to the noise of fingernails scraping across a blackboard, the employment of echolocation by bats, and the love songs of frogs. He defuses the hype of sound-based weaponry that dates back to Joshua and his hundreds of warriors who blew on rams’ horns and shouted in unison to collapse the walls of Jericho. It must be myth or miracle, since physics alone cannot explain the magnitude of such a sonic blast. The science of sound is fascinating, and Horowitz is an author worth listening to. --Tony Miksanek
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (September 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608190900
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608190904
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #309,591 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Robert Taylor Brewer on September 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Sound is all around us. Its meanings and contradictions shape our emotional responses. We have a hamburger franchise named after sound (Sonic) and we can supersize sound (Supersonic). Professor Seth S. Horowitz (aka Dr. Evil - a nickname he earned when he mounted a laser pack on the back of a brown bat) tries to explain the mysteries of sound in his neat first book, The Universal Sense. He begins with questions about the mysteries of sound, like "What is it about fingernails on chalkboard that makes us cringe?" Everyone who reads this book will likely add their own gnawing sound mystery. Mine is this: why is the sound coming from my iPad stronger when the device is fully cloaked in its iHome leather (more likely faux leather) bound casing, than when the device is taken out of its encasement and free to blare to the rooftops? A sound mystery.

Sound is technical as well as emotional, and we live in a world fascinated by big sexy words having to do with sound. The author uses one of these terms early, "amplitude modulation", our daily media is chock full of others, some of which have surfaced with the release of the new iPhone 5. Newspapers were running stories about "Circuit Switchback" the process by which consumers using 4G LTE networks will be switched back to 3G when they use applications involving voice and data, because 4G LTE can't yet handle simultaneous voice and data transmissions, but 3G can.

But if Professor Horowitz's book was just about fancy sound terms, it would probably be dull and listless: This is your brain listening to Metallica; this is your brain listening to the sea. Instead the author begins the other way - with sound itself. He brings a sound to our ears and describes how we are changed by it.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By rgbonham on September 26, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There is a perfect balance between humor and technical information in the book. It is kind of like having just enough sugar on your breakfast cereal so that you are not eating it just because it is good for you. I highly recommend it to anyone.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By david o on January 7, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Great book. Tackles sound from many and fascinating angles -- the shock waves of asteroids slamming into the young Earth; how Darth Vader's theme music drives the narrative of Star Wars; bacteria, frogs and bats. Mixes hard science and data with just the right touches of pop culture, humor and personal anecdote. This not a manuscript lowered down from an ivory tower. The author gets his hands dirty, and the book and readers benefit.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Handel on November 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Fluent, fascinating and a bit geeky, this book is perfect for anyone curious about their ears, as well as what's between them. From how bats use sonar to how fish (!) hear, to emotion, music and more, this book takes you surfing across sound waves of all types. I recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Himri VINE VOICE on January 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Tuning fork on the book cover might/might not work as an attention monger depending on your experience in science class. If you think, the ear with its so many inner/outer/middle like levels of hell is too much on one thing, feel free to skip the jarg on it and still theres the 'How hearing shapes the mind' to be appreciated in the book.
All that pregnancy reading helped in seeing parallels of how foetus shifts from systems during birth. A human foetus shifts from umbilical cord to pulmonary route for breathing. And such a shift is found in bull frog tadpoles when they move from the opercular way of hearing under water to the ear.
There are so many things about hearing that we come across daily but havent put it into:

Do you know why you have preference for one ear when you talk on the phone
Why you have to take care of alarms while it doesnt seem to bother others
How you can hear over the din in a restaurant/party - Cocktail effect

This is science amped All you wanted to know about hearing from a contemporary scientist who does his homework of popular/necessary reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By David Hedges on March 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book is loaded with valuable information about sound. My favorite quote is "Music is the math everybody gets." I want to add that to my email signatures! The cover design is also worth noting, and staring at. There is a quality of silence that is transmitted just by looking at the cover.
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Format: Paperback
The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind by Seth S. Horowitz is fascinating book that explains how sounds shape our minds. Horowitz is a musician and neuroscientist. He is a professor at Brown University and is also the chief scientist and CEO of NeuroPop: a company that is finding ways to use sound to help reduce stress and promote sleep. Sounds bring out emotions and these emotions can be different between individuals. One sound that makes one person happy could bring out anger in another person. The emotions that are brought out by sounds are the biggest influence on how sounds shape our minds. Horowitz does a great job explaining how we hear sounds and how our minds are influenced by sounds.

The main ideas of The Universal Sense are how we hear sounds, how our brains process sounds, and how those sounds shape our minds. Sounds are vibrations and waves that are constantly entering our ears. These waves move inner structures of the ear in many different ways depending on the frequency and amplitude of the sound wave. When these structures move, they move hair cells in the ear, which send neuronal signals to the brain. Sounds over time activate and can create different neuronal pathways that are different between individuals. The more that pathway is activated the easier it is becomes to activate that pathway. Our minds have been shaped to recognize what sounds are “normal” or “abnormal” for different environments. While you are reading this review, someone may be coughing or tapping their foot. Your brain may be processing this sound as an annoyance, and in your mind you are getting more irritated because you cannot concentrate. On the other hand you may not even notice the noise and can read on just fine. Sounds provoke different emotions among individuals.
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The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind
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