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Watch High-Speed MRI Images of Someone Singing "If I Only Had a Brain"

Anyone who has had an MRI knows that when you get in the machine, you have to remain pretty still or risk messing up the scan, which captures about 10 frames per second. But to study how the approximately 100 muscles in the human head, neck, jaw, tongue, and lips work together to create speech and song, the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois has developed new technology that allows MRIs to capture 100 frames per second. They demonstrated the technology with a video of someone singing The Wizard of Oz classic "If I Only Had a Brain" (above).

It all started when Aaron Johnson, an affiliate faculty member in the Bioimaging Science and Technology Group at the Beckman Institute and an assistant professor at Illinois (and a former professional singer) wanted to find out if training seniors at retirement communities to sing in groups would make for stronger larynxes—and, therefore, more powerful voices. “The neuromuscular system and larynx change and atrophy as we age, and this contributes to a lot of the deficits that we associate with the older voice, such as a weak, strained, or breathy voice,” Johnson said in a press release. “I’m interested in understanding how these changes occur, and if interventions, like vocal training, can reverse these effects. In order to do this, I need to look at how the muscles of the larynx move in real time.”

But capturing real-time articulation with a typical MRI machine wouldn't be possible. So Zhi-Pei Liang, an electrical and computer engineering professor, and his team at Beckman, as well as a group led by Brad Sutton, technical director of Beckman’s Biomedical Imaging Center BIC and associate professor in bioengineering, developed and refined the high-speed imaging technique, which they described in a recent issue of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine.

“The technique excels at high spatial and temporal resolution of speech—it’s both very detailed and very fast,” Sutton said. “Often you can have only one of these in MR imaging. We have designed a specialized acquisition method that gathers the necessary data for both space and time in two parts and then combines them to achieve high-quality, high-spatial resolution, and high-speed imaging.” To capture the audio, the team used a noise-cancelling fiber-optic microphone and synced it with the imaging later.

“We have a very dynamic community at the Beckman Institute and Illinois working on this, from engineers to linguists, and we’re able to measure things with MRI in ways we couldn’t have just a couple of years ago,” Sutton said. “But what makes it worthwhile is having people like Aaron who ask the scientific questions that drive our research forward.” 

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Afternoon Map
The Most Popular Infomercial Product in Each State

You don't have to pay $19.95 plus shipping and handling to discover the most popular infomercial product in each state: AT&T retailer All Home Connections is giving that information away for free via a handy map.

The map was compiled by cross-referencing the top-grossing infomercial products of all time with Google Trends search interest from the past calendar year. So, which crazy products do people order most from their TVs?

Folks in Arizona know that it's too hot there to wear layers; that's why they invest in the Cami Secret—a clip-on, mock top that gives them the look of a camisole without all the added fabric. No-nonsense New Yorkers are protecting themselves from identity theft with the RFID-blocking Aluma wallet. Delaware's priorities are all sorted out, because tons of its residents are still riding the Snuggie wave. Meanwhile, Vermont has figured out that Pajama Jeans are the way to go—because who needs real pants?

Unsurprisingly, the most popular product in many states has to do with fitness and weight loss, because when you're watching TV late enough to start seeing infomercials, you're probably also thinking to yourself: "I need to get my life together. I should get in shape." Seven states—Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Utah, and Wisconsin—have invested in the P90X home fitness system, while West Virginia and Arkansas prefer the gentler workout provided by the Shake Weight. The ThighMaster is still a thing in Illinois and Washington, while Total Gym and Bowflex were favored by South Dakota and Wyoming, respectively. 

Kitchen items are clearly another category ripe for impulse-buying: Alabama and North Dakota are all over the George Forman Grill; Alaska and Rhode Island are mixing things up with the Magic Bullet; and Floridians must be using their Slice-o-matics to chop up limes for their poolside margaritas.

Cleaning products like OxiClean (D.C. and Hawaii), Sani Sticks (North Carolina), and the infamous ShamWow (which claims the loyalty of Mainers) are also popular, but it's Proactiv that turned out to be the big winner. The beloved skin care system claimed the top spot in eight states—California, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas—making it the most popular item on the map.

Peep the full map above, or check out the full study from All Home Connections here.

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Design
A Florida Brewery Created Edible Six-Pack Rings to Protect Marine Animals

For tiny scraps of plastic, six-pack rings can pose a huge threat to marine life. Small enough and ubiquitous enough that they’re easy to discard and forget about, the little plastic webs all too often make their way to the ocean, where animals can ingest or become trapped in them. In order to combat that problem, Florida-based Saltwater Brewery has created what they say is the world’s first fully biodegradable, compostable, edible six-pack rings.

The edible rings are made of barley and wheat and are, if not necessarily tasty, at least safe for animals and humans to ingest. Saltwater Brewery started packaging their beers with the edible six-pack rings in 2016. They charge slightly more for their brews to offset the cost of the rings' production. They hope that customers will be willing to pay a bit more for the environmentally friendly beers and are encouraging other companies to adopt the edible six-pack rings in order to lower manufacturing prices and save more animals.

As Saltwater Brewery president Chris Gove says in the video above: “We want to influence the big guys and kind of inspire them to also get on board.”

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