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Re: Reading versus books on tape

Hello List,

Once again I must must respond and this time to the subject of reading vs listening. Most of us on this list have some sort of scientific training. It started before high school and certainly well into university. In my day and for most of you this training consisted mostly of written material. For the blind individuals who recorded lectures and then replayed them to the same extent that we sighted individuals the results might be very different. Before I continue let me tell you a little joke which I heard some 45 years ago at a Harvard Summer session to which my then employer had sent me.
A biologist became interested in the response of beetles to food. Thus a beetle was trained ala Pavlov to crawl to some food on command. Next the biologist amputated on the the beetles legs and repeated the experiment. Again the beetle obeyed twinges of hunger. The second leg was amputated and the experiment repeated with the same result. As more legs were amputated the beetle crawled more slowly but always reached its food. When the las leg was amputated the beetle did not respond and did not crawl to the food. Noticing this response the biologist wrote in his laboratory notebook "A beetle all of whose legs have been amputated looses its appetite"

I'm sure all of us will realize the fallacy that makes us smile at this joke. Yet as I said most of us are trained to read and understand the written word. We certainly learn the spoken word first but we do not at that early age use it for abstract ideas. I too can remember back some 50 years and can see the formula I want on the bottom of the right hand page near the middle of the book. Could Arturo Toscanini do this. Probably not. But he and Yoyo Ma can listen to music and hear and remember what they heard which I cannot do. And in the visual field consider Michelangelo Buonarroti. His ability and that of Leonardo daVnci to paint and sculpt was amazing. The ability of these people was certainly due to their genes. But certainly also to practice.

The anecdotal responses were certainly interesting but not informative.


-- Fred Herzfeld, MIT '54 78 Glynn Marsh Drive #59 Brunswick, Ga.31525 USA