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Medical Tourism (why folks are getting their teeth cleaned in Hungary, their noses tweaked in Costa Rica and their hips resurfaced in India)

"This year alone, upwards of 500,000 Americans are expected to travel overseas to get their bodies fixed, at prices 30 to 80 percent less than at home." This is what Krysten Crawford writes in the August issue of Business 2.0. It's a fascinating article about the growing medical tourism industry.

Some other facts from the article:

  • There are more than 61 million Americans who are uninsured or don't have sufficient health insurance.
  • Experts estimate medical tourism will become a $40 billion/yr industry by 2010.
  • Because of this exploding industry, medical tourism agencies are starting to pop up. These agencies arrange everything from the actual medical visits to the hotel stays to sightseeing tours for patients and their families.
  • Where people are going and why:
    Hungary - Cheap dental care
    Malaysia - Heart surgery
    Brazil - Liposuction and plastic surgery
    Costa Rica - Nose jobs and other plastic surgery
    China - Liver and kidney transplants (the article warns that this is dangerous and should be avoided)
    India - Hip resurfacing

 

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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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