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The Yearn to Turn

It's amazing to me how public spaces have been transformed over the past few years. I feel like when I was younger and walking around town, I'd see people and be forced to acknowledge their presence—whether it was with a smile, or a nod, or a "hey, what's up?" But with more and more people using cel phones as they walk, or listening intently to their iPods, everyone seems trapped in their personal spaces while traipsing out in public. Does anyone agree with me? Like everyone is moving without communicating, toting all the security of their personal music libraries and their entire friend groups around with them so they don't have to interact or pay attention to the world around them. Well, perhaps I'm just waxing nostalgic because I spotted these today on the ShinyShiny site. Known as Indicatears, the ridiculous British gadget hooks up to your ears, and, like a personal turn signal, lets you indicate to the people walking around you which direction you're going to turn in! Right now the system only costs about $7.50 US, weighs under 50 grams, and seems ideal if you're part robot. Click here for more details.

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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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