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.
Medical marijuana on display at the grand opening of the Northwest Cannabis Market's Seattle location in February. While recreational pot use is now legal in Washington, the state has not yet issued rules governing the industry.
Attorney General Eric Holder appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday to answer questions on everything from gun control to the Department of Justice's failure to prosecute Wall Street. But he was also asked about an issue proponents of marijuana legalization have been following closely: what the DOJ plans to do about Colorado and Washington state, which have defied federal law by legalizing recreational use of the drug.
Arkansas has approved a law banning most abortions after 12 weeks of gestation, as both houses of the state's legislature vote to override a veto by Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe. The Republican-backed Human Heartbeat Protection Act will become the nation's most restrictive law.
In vetoing the Senate version of the bill Monday, Beebe said that it "would impose a ban on a woman's right to choose an elective, nontherapeutic abortion well before viability."
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.
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.
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.