CLOSE

So You Want to Be a Storm Chaser

The only storm I ever chased was by accident--zipping through the Texas Panhandle one time. But I've always been fascinated by people who manage to craft a living out of Mother Nature's "moments"; so, speaking of, here are some key moments in the history of storm chasing, via the National Association of Storm Chasers and Spotters:

  • In July of 1943, Colonel Joe Duckworth and Lieutenant Ralph O'Hair of the US Army Air Corps flew an AT-6 into a hurricane off the coast of Galveston, "Just for fun," according to Duckworth. Ironically, a B-25 crew had also conducted an unauthorized flight into the same storm. (Storm chasers never change!) Official reconnaissance of tropical weather began in 1944 and continues today, conducted by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron based in Biloxi, MS.
  • In 1952, the Weather Bureau (renamed National Weather Service in 1967) organized the Severe Local Storm Forecasting Unit in Washington, D.C., and the first tornado forecasts were issued. In 1959, the first weather radar was commissioned, and in 1960, the first weather satellite, TIROS I, was launched. It was also during this period that local "spotter" networks were established. As a consequence, the first volunteer chasers/weather watchers were organized.
  • The first storm chaser to gain international media exposure was newspaper photojournalist and business entrepreneur Warren Faidley. Faidley began pursuing severe weather in the mid-1980's as a newspaper photojournalist. Faidley's career and ensuing publicity was launched in part by an amazing photo he captured of a lightning bolt hitting a light pole less than 400 feet away from him. (The shot nearly killed him.) Life Magazine published the photo in 1989, billing him as a "storm chaser."

And although every good meteorologist will agree that inclement weather is no joke, here's a worthwhile Mr. T-as-storm chaser send-up.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
music
Stradivarius Violins Get Their Distinctive Sound By Mimicking the Human Voice
iStock
iStock

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]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
quiz
Orange-Themed Trivia
iStock
iStock

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios