Thinkstock
Thinkstock

Listen to a Quartet Sing While You Watch a Close-up of Their Vocal Cords

Thinkstock
Thinkstock

The human voice box is a strange and amazing thing. In this video of a quartet singing, you can see the voice box in action via laryngoscope—a tiny camera on a flexible tube inserted through the nose and down the throat.

First, you see the camera enter the nostril and continue over the back of the tongue until you see the larynx. The opening in the center is the entrance to the airway. The whitish bands on either side of the opening are the vocal cords. When they are open, that means the singer is taking a breath. When they are closed, the air is being pushed through them, making them vibrate and create sound. Muscles around the cords adjust the tension on them so they lengthen (making them vibrate faster and produce a higher tone) or shorten (making them vibrate slower and produce a lower tone).

The large flap of cartilage in front of the larynx is the epiglottis. It closes over the larynx when we swallow, so food is shunted back to the esophagus and away from the airway. The process is not failsafe—the human larynx is positioned much lower than it is in other animals, making us vulnerable to choking. But that lower position allows for speech and song, which are enough of an evolutionary advantage to make the risk worth it. We have learned to manipulate this complex machinery to make something not only useful, but beautiful. We pay for it with our own fragility.

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NASA, Getty Images
Watch Apollo 11 Launch
Vice President Spiro Agnew and former President Lyndon Johnson view the liftoff of Apollo 11
Vice President Spiro Agnew and former President Lyndon Johnson view the liftoff of Apollo 11
NASA, Getty Images

Apollo 11 launched on July 16, 1969, on its way to the moon. In the video below, Mark Gray shows slow-motion footage of the launch (a Saturn V rocket) and explains in glorious detail what's going on from a technical perspective—the launch is very complex, and lots of stuff has to happen just right in order to get a safe launch. The video is mesmerizing, the narration is informative. Prepare to geek out about rockets! (Did you know the hold-down arms actually catch on fire after the rocket lifts off?)

Apollo 11 Saturn V Launch (HD) Camera E-8 from Spacecraft Films on Vimeo.

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YouTube/Great Big Story
See the Secret Paintings Hidden in Gilded Books
YouTube/Great Big Story
YouTube/Great Big Story

The art of vanishing fore-edge painting—hiding delicate images on the front edges of gilded books—dates back to about 1660. Today, British artist Martin Frost is the last remaining commercial fore-edge painter in the world. He works primarily on antique books, crafting scenes from nature, domestic life, mythology, and Harry Potter. Great Big Story recently caught up with him in his studio to learn more about his disappearing art. Learn more in the video below.

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