January 2011
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Listening to the Radio like doing Cocaine

Well now, this explains a few things.  Always interested in carrying science forward, I read with interest the article on Gawker which cites a study from McGill University in Montreal, Canada.  The gist of the article states that we seek out music we enjoy because of a chemical reaction in our brains:

If music-induced emotional states can lead to dopamine release, as our findings indicate, it may begin to explain why musical experiences are so valued. These results further speak to why music can be effectively used in rituals, marketing or film to manipulate hedonistic states. Our findings provide neurochemical evidence that intense emotional responses to music involve ancient reward circuitry and serve as a starting point for more detailed investigations of the biological substrates that underlie abstract forms of pleasure.

By extension, radio has previously been the venue for most new music discovery.  Although this continues today, it is being supplanted by “new media” sources such as youtube.  As a point of reference, studies on cocaine addiction show that dopamine levels increase by about 22% during use.  When a listener is exposed to what is perceived as good music (a subjective term), average dopamine levels increased by about 21%.

Risk taking behavior like computer file sharing, when known consequences are large, could enhance that by adding an element of danger.  The Gawker article lists Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings,” which I always found somewhat depressing.  Something more like this a little more fun:

You can disregard the T-shirt pitch at the end if you want.

So there you are you erstwhile program directors, now you know why your job is important; you are to make us addicts, or not, depending…


A pessimist sees the glass as half empty. An optimist sees the glass as half full. The engineer sees the glass as twice the size it needs to be.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
~1st amendment to the United States Constitution

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
~Benjamin Franklin

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. To be your own man is hard business. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
~Rudyard Kipling

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers
~Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, Article 19

...radio was discovered, and not invented, and that these frequencies and principles were always in existence long before man was aware of them. Therefore, no one owns them. They are there as free as sunlight, which is a higher frequency form of the same energy.
~Alan Weiner

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