Scientists say that understanding how the cocktail party effect works could help people who have trouble deciphering sounds in a noisy environment. Guests make it look easy at a Dolce and Gabbana Lounge party in London in 2010.
Scientists are beginning to understand how people tune in to a single voice in a crowded, noisy room.
This ability, known as the "cocktail party effect," appears to rely on areas of the brain that have completely filtered out unwanted sounds, researchers report in the journal Neuron. So when a person decides to focus on a particular speaker, other speakers "have no representation in those [brain] areas," says Elana Zion Golumbic of Columbia University.
CLAUDIO SANCHEZ, BYLINE: This is Claudio Sanchez in Washington, D.C. By mid-afternoon, some parts of west and northern Virginia had gotten a foot of snow. Washington, D.C. was expecting at least half that, so area airports cancelled more than a thousand flights. Schools closed. So did federal and local government offices. Things look bad.
CHRIS VACCARO: This is certainly a significant storm and a dangerous storm.
SANCHEZ: That's Chris Vaccaro with the National Weather Service.
More than three decades ago, Soviet soldier Bakhretdin Khakimov went missing in Afghanistan after he was wounded in battle with Afghan mujahedeen forces.
His whereabouts remained unknown until two weeks ago, when he was tracked down by a team from the Warriors-Internationalists Affairs Committee, a Moscow-based nonprofit that looks for Soviet MIAs in Afghanistan.
I've been listening to two very good new albums led by drummers. After learning that both men are in their early 70s, I can't help but wonder how I process that fact in what I hear.
"Killer" Ray Appleton (b. 1941) and Barry Altschul (b. 1943) practice different styles. But they both came of musical age in the hard-bop era, spent many years living in Europe and eventually returned to New York. In other words, they've each got a lot of experience.
The death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is an especially tough blow for Cuba, whose feeble state-run economy has been propped up for more than a decade with Venezuelan oil shipments and other subsidies.
The Castro government has declared three days of mourning, calling Chavez "a son" of Cuba, but privately Cubans are quietly fretting about the potential loss of billions in trade and the threat of a new economic crisis.
An elderly woman at a California retirement home died in February after a staff person refused to perform CPR, despite the pleas of a 911 dispatcher. The nurse says she was following company policy. This incident raised many questions about the role of dispatchers in medical emergencies.
In his profile of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in this week's issue of The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin writes: "Ginsburg has suggested that she would like to serve as long as Louis Brandeis, her judicial hero, who retired at eighty-two." Ginsburg turns 80 this month and is marking her 20th year on the court. She has had cancer — colon and pancreatic — and her tiny, frail-looking stature leads many people to wonder if she'll be retiring soon.
Every year, the South By Southwest music, film and interactive festival gets larger, and navigating the blur of panels, parties and shows gets more daunting. The girth of it all is enough to keep many SXSW old-timers away from Austin this year.