I like to listen to podcasts and screencasts at two or three times the recorded speed. The application I use (Instacast) does this with pitch correction, a feature that’s probably built into iOS at this juncture. In short, I can listen to a thirty minute podcast in ten to fifteen minutes and they only sound funny when music plays. I do mean funny; listen to Radiohead’s “Creep” at 3x speed and it comes out downright chipper.
Our brains can process speech at these accelerated rates just fine. In fact, when I listen to some of my favorite podcasters in “real” time, they sound like they’re thinking really hard and speaking slowly, or that they’re flat-out drunk. The interesting bit is when an accelerated speaker has an accent or when there is radio interference with the FM transmitter I use in the car. At this point, all bets are off and I have to slow the podcast down or listen when the signal is better.
The bottom line is that, empirically, human speech has built-in redundancy. We tend to speak at a rate that, if you miss some sounds, you can probably still make out the words. Further, the space in-between words is probably filled with our own thoughts anyway; we only listen part of the time we’re listening.
Nifty things, our brains are.
Last March my wife and I joined a gym, started working out with a trainer, started trying to eat better, and thusly set out to improve our health. Amazingly, we’ve stuck with it (after two previous failed attempts in years past) and are both in much better shape than we’ve been in for quite some time.
One of my personal reasons for doing this was what I’d been hearing about the correlation between working out, eating better, and brain function. Lots of people who read way more into this than I do had been saying that if you eat better and exercise more, your brain will work better.
I’ve noticed this first hand. The day after my first serious run, my mind was in overdrive. I had lots of great ideas, I worked through them quickly, and I didn’t procrastinate when it came to exploring or realizing them.
Today, I had the opposite experience. I went out for a rather large Tex-Mex lunch. Lots of starch. I got home and took a nap, as is often my wont. Usually I wake up ready to get back to work after my naps. But today was different. My brain was thoroughly sluggish. My body’s energy was going towards digestion, not thought.
I guess this is something of a break-up letter for me. You see, I’ve long enjoyed the large, starchy lunch. But, I’m not sure I can put up with it anymore. If its a choice between starchy, tasty lunches and a high-functioning brain, I’m going to have to choose my brain.
Sorry, lunch-time gutbombs. We had a good run, but I’m going to have to quit you for a while.