Publishers Weekly Review
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. There are no deaf vertebrates, signaling hearing's importance. Everywhere there is energy, there is sound: solar winds "howl"; black holes thrum in B-flat. Human hearing is "faster-than-thought," can capture "a wide range of tones and timbres that visual color cannot hope to match," and more "flexibility" than taste and smell. All this lets sound "drive a fantastic range of subconscious elements in the living organism." Horowitz beautifully describes how the evolution of fervently communicating life forms changed the sounds of early earth "from incidental noise to songs." He explains how hearing rewires our brains into adulthood, and notes that hearing can prompt our neurons to release pleasurable oxytocin when exposed to musical frequencies, yet sicken us at other frequencies (inner-city noise has been linked to heart problems). The ability to hear is still, by and large, a mystery. This is an often eloquent introduction to what is known. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Booklist Review
The Universal Sense is a fascinating analysis of the history of sound and its connection to our world, our life, and our psychological state. The author's goal is to explain how "sound and hearing have shaped the evolution, development, and day-to-day function of the mind." Neuroscientist Horowitz (Brown Univ.) makes some very complex phenomena palatable to readers and ties them to people's everyday experiences with sound. The 11-chapter book discusses topics such as what animals hear, how people filter sound, the effect of sound on people's emotions, and the use of sound in weaponry. It ends with an interesting discussion of what the future may hold for the field of acoustical science and how this may affect rehabilitation for the hearing-impaired population. Though not for casual readers, it is an important book for all current and aspiring speech and auditory scientists seeking a detailed and compelling presentation about the powerful impact that sound makes on all living beings. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, researchers/faculty, and professionals; informed general audiences. I. G. Ashbaugh Truman State University
Booklist Review
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.--Miksanek, Tony Copyright 2010 Booklist