CLOSE

These Rats Were Made for Walking

According to CNN, the folks at Johns Hopkins University, led by neurologist Douglas Kerr, now have proof that stem cells can help paralyzed rats walk again. I'm almost certain I'm going to get the science wrong here, but from what I gather the team cultivated embryonic rat stem cells in the lab until they developed neural precursors and then injected them into spinal columns of rats that had been paralyzed. Further, Science Magazine is reporting that about 11-15 rats regained motor skills from the experiments. While human experimentation is definitely in the future, the scientists are quick to point out that paralyzed pigs are next in line to benefit from the procedures (all animals are created equal, but some animals are more equal than others). Of course, the experiments will no doubt bring about even more debate. As stem cell researcher Clive Svendsen said in the Science story, "Of all the stem cells it's really only the embryonic stem cells that can make motor neurons."

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
music
Stradivarius Violins Get Their Distinctive Sound By Mimicking the Human Voice
iStock
iStock

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]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
quiz
Orange-Themed Trivia
iStock
iStock

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios