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They like You, they really like You

Critiquing Time Magazine's "Person of the Year" choice has been an annual sport since the feature began in 1927. Judging from its controversial choices, it's obviously not a popularity contest: 1938's winner was Adolph Hitler and 1939's was Joseph Stalin; Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini won in 1979. But this year's "person" may be the magazine's most controversial choice yet -- partly because, in this humble blog's occasionally-esteemed opinion, it's a total cop-out.

The winner? "You." As in the "You" of YouTube and the implied "You" of MySpace, Wikipedia and all the social networking/"You"-ser generated content sites that have transformed the internet in the past year or so.

"It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes," says Time magazine's Lev Grossman. "It's a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter."

Time's criteria for choosing their annual person (or "person," in this case) is that "who most affected the news and our lives, for good or for ill." So, hmm -- under those criteria, perhaps "You" could be considered a legitimate contender. But really, in a year so filled with horrible, world-rocking tragedies, they picked ... the internet?

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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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