My thanks to everyone who came out on a Saturday afternoon to listen to my lecture on the history of noise. The description of the lecture was:

The word “noise” is often synonymous with “nuisance,” which implies something to be avoided as much as possible. We label blaring sirens, the space between stations on the radio dial and the din of a busy street as “noise.” Is noise simply a sound we don’t like?  How have scientists defined noise? Is there ever a time when a noisy system is desirable?

We will consider the evolution of how scientists and engineers have thought about noise, beginning in the Victorian Era and continuing to the present day. We will explore the idea of noise as a social construction and a technological necessity. We’ll also touch on critical developments in the study of sound, the history of physics and engineering and the development of communications technology.

I used ideas from the history of physics, the history of music, the discipline of sound studies, and the history of electrical engineering to make the point that understanding “noise” is essential to understanding advancements in physics and engineering in the last century. We began with a discussion of 19th-century attitudes toward noise (and its association with “progress” and industry) before moving on to examine the early history of recorded sound and music, early attempts to measure noise, and the noise abatement movement. I concluded with a brief overview of my recent work on the role of noise in the development of the modem during the early Cold War.

Once again, I’d like to thank everyone who attended and the SFU Seniors Lifelong Learners Society for sponsoring the event.