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Joined at the hip. Really.

In a development that will delight John to no end, doctors in L.A. are currently working to separate a set of conjoined twins:

The complex surgery on Regina and Renata Salinas Fierros began at about 6 a.m. at the Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. About 80 doctors and staff members will try to separate many of the girls' vital organs.

The girls, whose parents are from Mexico, are considered ischiopagus tetrapus twins, which doctors at the hospital said are among the rarest and most complex to separate because they share many organ systems. The twins are fused on their front, and today doctors will attempt to separate their liver, intestine, urinary, reproductive, vascular and musculo-skeletal systems.

And in a development that will irk John to no end, I'm going to post some facts about ischiopagus tetrapus twins before he gets the chance:

* Ischiopagus tetrapus twins are extraordinarily rare -- they make up about 6 percent of conjoined-twin births, which themselves only occur at a rate of 1 in 50,000. So, Will, your wife has about a .00012 percent chance of giving birth to babies like Regina and Renata next month. (I suppose you could argue that she has a 0 percent chance, as she's not actually carrying twins, but, you know.) They're not the rarest kind; that honor goes to "craniopagus" twins, who share brains and make up just 2 percent of conjoined twins.

* Two sets of female ischiopagus tetrapus twins were born in 1977 and successfully separated at the St. Louis Children's Hospital in the following year. It's no coincidence that both sets (and the set having surgery today) are female; about 70 percent of conjoined twins are. Nobody knows why.

* What is an ischiopagus tetrapus twin, anyway? "Tetrapus" simply means the twins have the proper number of legs. If they're born with three legs, they're "tripus." As for "ischiopagus," it's a big word that simply means the twins are connected at the ischium, or the lower part of the pelvis.

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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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