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A Village Genius and his Electricity-less Fridge

I just saw this amazing invention on Neatorama, and was totally awed by the simplicity of it. A Nigerian school teacher named Mohammed Bah Abba has invented a cheap and convenient clay pot method of keeping foods chilled, aimed to help poor villagers who don't have access to electricity. Mohammed Bah Abba's pot-within-a-pot idea was so clever that he nabbed a ROLEX Award, netting him $100,000 for his ingenuity. Here's how it works, according to Chris Gupta:

"You take a smaller pot and put it inside a larger pot. Fill the space in between them with wet sand, and cover the top with a wet cloth. When the water evaporates, it pulls the heat out with it, making the inside cold."

So smart and easy. (Does no one else do this?) And apparently, more girls are able to go to school because they don't have to go to market to sell off the unrefrigerated perishable food products every day. Pretty stunning. Of course, if I was Muhammad Ali's agent right now, I'd jump at a licensing opportunity. After all, if Foreman Grills did so well for Ali's "Rumble in the Jungle" opponent, I don't see why Cassius Clay's Clay Refrigerators wouldn't take off as well. Link via the always reliable Neatorama.

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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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