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Desert Diary


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Generally, noise means sound, often with the connotation of harshness. This isn't invariably the case, for we do talk about soothing sounds, the sound of music, and the like. But revealingly, older people often complain that today's music is nothing but noise.

Its in the bothersome sense that scientists and engineers use the term, for they're often attempting to discern a clear signal. To them, anything not part of the signal, and especially anything tending to distort or conceal the signal, is noise. A current example is the attempt to learn the degree of responsibility humans have for global warming. The signal we'd like is the effect due solely to human activities, but separating this from the noise of normal climatic variability has been difficult. Although there's general scientific agreement that man's involvement is heating the earth, we still have a long way to go in filtering out the noise to get a clear signal. Remember the song, "There'll be a hot time in the old town tonight"? Appears so, but we don't yet know just how hot!
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Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.