Comma-Free Zone

David K. Israel

Bart Kosko, USC professor and pioneer of the fuzzy logic theory, has a new book coming out soon called Noise.

As a writer always in search of solitude and tranquility, I'm intrigued by Kosko's claims that noise can make us smarter. In a recent interview in Wired magazine, he states, "The more you can concentrate with background noise, the more it strengthens the brain. Isaac Asimov used to set his typewriter up in stores and other loud places to work."

As I write this now, there's a leaf blower blowing next door, a garbage disposal unit grinding downstairs and a helicopter circling above (presumably the LAPD looking for a criminal in my neighborhood).

I just had to retype that paragraph several times, so I guess I'm no Asimov. Or, Kosko's theory doesn't apply for me. After all, this is the same guy whose new book is completely comma free.

"Commas are a kind of channel noise," he says in the interview. "You're not getting to the verb fast enough."

Buying it, I'm not, so far. (There, I led with the verb.) But I'm still going to read the book and give you a full report.