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

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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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The Sweet Surprise Reunion Mr. Rogers Never Saw Coming
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For more than 30 years, legendary children’s show host Fred Rogers used his PBS series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood to educate his young viewers on concepts like empathy, sharing, and grief. As a result, he won just about every television award he was eligible for, some of them many times over.

Rogers was gracious in accepting each, but according to those who were close to the host, one honor in particular stood out. It was March 11, 1999, and Rogers was being inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame, an offshoot of the Emmy Awards. Just before being called to the stage, out came a surprise.

The man responsible for the elation on Rogers’s face was Jeff Erlanger, a 29-year-old from Madison, Wisconsin who became a quadriplegic at a young age after undergoing spinal surgery to remove a tumor. Rogers was surprised because Erlanger had appeared on his show nearly 20 years prior in 1980 to help kids understand how people with physical challenges adapt to life’s challenges. Here's his first encounter with the host:

Reunited on stage after two decades, Erlanger referred to the song, “It’s You I Like,” which the two sang during their initial meeting. “On behalf of millions of children and grown-ups,” Erlanger said, “it’s you I like.” The audience, including a visibly moved Candice Bergen, rose to their feet to give both men a standing ovation.

Following Erlanger’s death in 2007, Hedda Sharapan, an employee with Rogers’s production company, called their poignant scene “authentic” and “unscripted,” and that Rogers often pointed to it as his favorite moment from the series.

Near the end of the original segment in 1980, as Erlanger drives his wheelchair off-camera, Rogers waves goodbye and offers a departing message: “I hope you’ll come back to visit again.”

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Things You Didn't Know Came From South Dakota
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South Dakota's accomplishments span millions of years. It's the former stomping ground of dinosaurs, mammoths, and a certain beloved game show host.

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