Culture Science

Do you hear ‘Yanny’ or ‘Laurel’ in this audio illusion?

marketing man person communication laurel

The web talked up a storm yesterday over an audio clip that purportedly pronounced one of two words depending on your ears: Yanny or Laurel.

Here’s the clip. Which do you hear?

While the majority of listeners report hearing “Yanny,” myself included (I listened on my laptop), hearing scientist Brad Story at the University of Arizona reveals that that waveform actually reveals “laurel.”

 So, with a low quality recording (as is the one in question) and a wide variety of devices on which people are listening, it is not surprising that some might hear something like ‘yanny.’

Via Brad Story

Your auditory perception ultimately depends on your sound card and your ears, with higher or lower frequencies impacting the results. But your brain and previous experiences are also variables, as is how people see the cue in their timelines and fill in the rest with the imagination. Writes The Verge:

…the visual prompt that comes with the audio, Yanny or Laurel. That might help shape what people hear. Here’s another example of how prompts shape what we hear: the same word can sound like “bill,” “pail,” or “mayo” depending on what’s on-screen.

The sound debate reminds me of a quote I read recently in one of Paul Theroux’s [easyazon_link identifier=”0618658947″ locale=”US” tag=”wells01-20″]travel books[/easyazon_link]. He writes: “I’ve got a theory that what you hear influences – maybe even determines – what you see.”

Like the disputed blue and black or white and gold dress, the Yanny vs Laurel divide will rage on.

What’s the frequency, Kenneth?

News Productivity & Work

Podcasts I’m Digging

Podcasts keep your mind fresh. Listening to them is like going back to school but you get to take the courses you want without the added pressure of an exam afterward.

From The Kernel:

“Hearing a podcast, on headphones, is the most intense listening experience I’ve ever had—and I’m addicted to it. I am putting someone else’s voice, their thoughts, directly into my head. My inner monologue ceases; their thoughts replace my thoughts. I know that sounds like a sci-fi dystopia. In fact, I find it an incredible way to interact with the world.”

Listening to podcasts is pure enjoyment.

Podcasts are also the perfect multitasking activity. You can pipe tidbits of important information into your head while you go along with your day. They’re especially helpful when you’re doing menial work in Excel. But I’ve also noticed that listening to podcasts while doing the dishes takes the listening to another level. Try it and let me know if you have the same augmented experience.

So what are my favorite podcasts? I listen to a variety of them but below are my top 5. You’ll get everything you need to know about art, history, entrepreneurship, and life hacking from these.

Podcast Earworms

  1. The Tim Ferriss Show
  2. 99% Invisible
  3. HBR IdeaCast
  4. In Our Time
  5. On Being with Krista Tippet

If you’re new to podcasting or looking to get back into it, download Overcast and pay up for all the extra features and then search for the above Podcasts.

+Occassionally, I’ll summarize a Podcast on my blog like I did with Maria Popova on the Tim Ferriss Show.


Audio never goes viral. If you posted the most incredible story — literally, the most incredible story that has ever been told since people have had the ability to tell stories, it will never, ever get as many hits as a video of a cat with a moustache.

Nate DiMeo on what goes viral

Amar G. Bose: ‘I went into business so that I could do interesting things that hadn’t been done before.’

“I would have been fired a hundred times at a company run by M.B.A.’s. But I never went into business to make money. I went into business so that I could do interesting things that hadn’t been done before.”

RIP Amar G. Bose, creator of Bose.

I didn’t know this man was behind the brand.

He always made superior products that looked like Apple’s, in design and quality.


The Power of Music, Tapped in a Cubicle

Music has the ability to aid focus and improve attitude.

You may get mixed reviews in the office though.  On the one hand, if you wear headphones it appears that you’re shunning the world and may be disinterested in your work.  On the other hand, it could actually help you drown out the office noise and get stuff done with excitement, i.e. “melodious sounds help encourage the release of dopamine” which may encourage you to finish “tasks more quickly.”

It’s best to use music only when you really need it.  Chances are you’ll hear important information from colleagues just by keeping your ears open and your earbuds to the side.


Background Noise/Work

Modest background noise, the scientists explain, creates enough of a distraction to encourage people to think more imaginatively. (link

Is Noise Always Bad?