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Doggy Day Camp


This AP story, which is presumably headlined "Pet Boarding Industry Finds Pampering Pays" because the title "People Willing to Pay $78 a Night So Their Dogs Can Have Storytime Are Idiots" would have been too long, got me to thinking about history's most pampered pets, and frankly the Doggy Camp industry has a long way to go before they can match my Top 3:

1. Caligula's horse Incitatus. Roman historians claimed that Incitatus had "a stall of marble, a manger of ivory, ... and a collar of precious stones." There's also a long-standing, probably apocryphal story that Caligula intended to make the horse a consul.

2. Lots of people have left money in their wills to ensure the care of their pets (including one 19th century Brit, who left 10 pounds a year to, and I am quoting directly here, "my monkey, my dear and amusing Jacko), but no pet owner could match Eleanor Ritchey, who had taken in some 150 dogs by the time of her death and left them her entire estate: 4.5 million bucks.

3. Alexander the Great liked naming places after himself (he founded no fewer than 19 Alexandrias). So you know he really liked his horse, Bucephalus, because Alexander strayed from his usual self-congratulatory town-naming after the horse's death, declaring a town in modern-day Pakistan Bucephala.

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Stradivarius Violins Get Their Distinctive Sound By Mimicking the Human Voice
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Italian violinist Francesco Geminiani once wrote that a violin's tone should "rival the most perfect human voice." Nearly three centuries later, scientists have confirmed that some of the world's oldest violins do in fact mimic aspects of the human singing voice, a finding which scientists believe proves "the characteristic brilliance of Stradivari violins."

Using speech analysis software, scientists in Taiwan compared the sound produced by 15 antique instruments with recordings of 16 male and female vocalists singing English vowel sounds, The Guardian reports. They discovered that violins made by Andrea Amati and Antonio Stradivari, the pioneers of the instrument, produce similar "formant features" as the singers. The resonance frequencies were similar between Amati violins and bass and baritone singers, while the higher-frequency tones produced by Stradivari instruments were comparable to tenors and contraltos.

Andrea Amati, born in 1505, was the first known violin maker. His design was improved over 100 years later by Antonio Stradivari, whose instruments now sell for several million dollars. "Some Stradivari violins clearly possess female singing qualities, which may contribute to their perceived sweetness and brilliance," Hwan-Ching Tai, an author of the study, told The Guardian.

Their findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. A 2013 study by Dr. Joseph Nagyvary, a professor emeritus at Texas A&M University, also pointed to a link between the sounds produced by 250-year-old violins and those of a female soprano singer.

According to Vox, a blind test revealed that professional violinists couldn't reliably tell the difference between old violins like "Strads" and modern ones, with most even expressing a preference for the newer instruments. However, the value of these antique instruments can be chalked up to their rarity and history, and many violinists still swear by their exceptional quality.

[h/t The Guardian]

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