$50 Challenge Winner: Congratulations, Allison Young!

It took Allison Young all of five minutes to correctly answer the ten questions in our $50 Challenge. Congratulations! She's won a shopping spree in the mental_floss store. And this month's random t-shirt winners are Ryan Pelster and Meri Beck, who also had all the right answers. I'll be in touch about your prizes.

1. Who are the five leaders profiled for the "5 Gutsiest World Leaders" cover story?
Lula da Silva, Angela Merkel, Yoweri Museveni, Michelle Bachelet, Ma Ying-jeou

2. During a 1978 fundraising campaign, who sponsored the "˜D' in the Hollywood sign?
Dennis Lidtke

3. What are the names of the Navy's two largest hospital ships?
Comfort and Mercy

4. What's the answer to question #10 of Sandy & Kara's quiz on page 68?
k.d. lang

5. Finish this sentence: "The secret to good dirt eating is simply to ____________."
"choose wisely"

6. According to the New York Times, which of the following items was not on the menu when FDR hosted King George VI for a picnic?
a) Doughnuts, b) Hot Dogs, c) Jello, d) Cold Ham

c) Jello

7. What colleges do the five winners of our $50,000 Tuition Giveaway attend?
Mt. Holyoke College, Bucknell Univeristy, The University of Texas (Austin), Northwest Nazarene University, University of Virginia

8. Which has more calories, one Marshmallow Peep or one Chicken McNugget?
One McNugget

9. What artist is featured in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ad on the inside back cover?
Bruce Springsteen

10. Which of the following celebrities are not pictured on the "˜Readers and Their Famous Friends' page? a) Liberace, b) Mario Lopez, c) Sally Struthers
c) Sally Struthers

Want to play along next time? You'll need the magazine. Here's how you subscribe.

Stradivarius Violins Get Their Distinctive Sound By Mimicking the Human Voice

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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