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Very special relativity

It's been 51 years since his death, but Albert Einstein still makes for good gossip fodder. Yesterday, there were new revelations from his personal correspondence: He discussed his many affairs with his second wife and stepdaughter, was "fed up" with his own theory of relativity, and lost most of his Nobel money -- which should have gone for child support -- in the Great Depression. The Boston Globe has the best rundown:

Before he and Mileva married, they had a daughter, Lieserl, who was given up for adoption. In 1919, Einstein divorced Mileva and married Elsa, but within four years he was in love with Bette Neumann, his secretary who was also the young niece of one of his friends. ... Einstein's distance from his two sons after the divorce from Mileva clearly troubled him. He wrote how much he enjoyed taking the boys on holiday but at times expressed despair over his younger son, Eduard, who suffered from schizophrenia. ... The divorce settlement with Mileva contained a unique clause in which Einstein agreed that if he were to win the Nobel Prize he would deposit the money in a Swiss bank account in Mileva's name, and she could use the interest to finance the upbringing of the children. Einstein indeed won the prize for physics in 1921, but failed to fulfill this promise. ... He invested three-quarters of the money, about $24,000, in long-term bonds via the Ladenburg and Thalmann Bank in New York. Mileva was supposed to receive the interest. But the value of the bonds was wiped out in the Depression of the 1930s and Mileva's income dried up.

Hey, nobody's perfect; I still love the guy (though perhaps given his way with the ladies that's no surprise?).

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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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