Bart Kosko: aural philosopher

How many ways can we think about noise? This brief Wired Q&A with USC engineer and aural philosopher Bart Kosko suggests a couple.   

You suggest that adding the right amount of random signal can actually enhance reception:
Adding small amounts electrical noise helps a nanotube antenna detect faint binary signals. And noise can help digital photographers, too -- injecting a little bit of random pixel noise can allow you to see hidden details in an overexposed image.

[Can] we... sniff out that most annoying junk signal, spam?
Better spam filters will always be coming out, based on nonlinear and generic algorithms. With spam filters and digital audio and high-definition TV, our signal-to-noise ratios are getting remarkably better. It's odd, then, that our society just keeps getting noisier.

Prof. Kosko is the author of what must be the first history of noise, called simply enough "Noise."

"Noise," he says, "is the signal that you don't like." 


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