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Video games at school cure fatness

Sound like a foolhardy idea? Sure, until you realize they're not talking about Ms. Pac-Man or Mortal Kombat, but the ubiquitous, inexplicably addictive and downright exhausting game Dance Dance Revolution. Even if you're not a video game fan, you may have wandered by an arcade and wondered "Why are the kids in there moving so much? Shouldn't they be frozen, zombie-like, in front of their joysticks?" Welcome to the Revolution.

The game is played on a metal dance pad with four arrow panels: left, down, up, and right. These panels are pressed using the player's feet, in response to arrows that appear on the screen in front of the player. The arrows are synchronized to the general rhythm or beat of a chosen song, and success is dependent on the player's ability to time and position his or her steps accordingly.

If that sounds tiring, it is. So much so that Norway recently declared DDR an official sport, and the West Virginia state public school system is planning to place a game in every one of its schools to help stem the tide of childhood obesity. Studies have indeed shown that kids who play the game for at least 30 minutes five times a week maintain their weight and see a reduction in some risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. One woman even claims to have lost 95 lbs. playing the game.

Not to sound like a fogey at 27, but I grew up playing video games and playing outdoors as well, and I think it's a dark harbinger of things to come that the former is eclipsing the latter in terms of kids' entertainment! When kids stop playing sports altogether, what physical activities will video games have left to mimic?

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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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