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Hey, I know that monkey!

After today, I'm imposing a self-moratorium on blogs about monkeys and the internet, despite the many letters, text messages and e-cards I've received urging me to continue mining this admittedly deep vein. (Thank you, faceless Blogospherians, I am humbled by your enthusiasm.) But this, I just had to share. Many of you may be aware of the little website that could: YouTube. For those of you who are not, YouTube is a video hosting website that

  • Was only started in December 2005, but is already the 13th most popular website on the internet, according to Alexa.com.
  • So popular is it -- with more than 100 million videos viewed, and 65,000 added, per day -- that major trad-media TV networks have approached YouTube to forge content-sharing agreements, and even apologized for a few of the copyright infringment lawsuits it slapped on them earlier this year. (Who's your daddy, CBS?)
  • Although estimates of YouTube's value are pretty much entirely speculative, that's not stopping anyone from speculating. CNET and the New York Post guess it could be worth between $650 million and $2 billion.

So what drives this burgeoning media empire? Anyone who's performed more than a cursory exploration of the site will tell you: videos of baby animals falling asleep, bums fighting, and the desperately lonely videoblogging about either of the aforementioned. Anyway, point is: the sister of a guy who acted in a film I made owns the baby monkey who is by far the most popular animal-falling-asleep on YouTube (something like a million people have seen it), which puts it in the running to be the internet's most celebrated animal. And while "Sleepy Baby Monkey Named Mercutio" may not sweep next year's Oscars, don't be surprised if by then it's been seen by more people than whichever arthouse indie which inevitably takes home the little golden guy.

What's that? One more monkey picture before I go? Well, okay.
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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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