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Chloe Effron

Why Are Girls' Voices Usually Higher Than Boys' Voices?

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Chloe Effron

WHY? is our attempt to answer all the questions every little kid asks. Have a question? Send it to why@mentalfloss.com.

It’s all thanks to your vocal cords. These are muscles that stretch like rubber bands across your voice box, or larynx (LAIR-inks), which is located at the back of your throat. Whenever you say hello to a friend or answer a question in class, you’re using your vocal cords to speak. The size of your vocal cords is what determines your voice’s pitch, which is its level of highness or lowness.

When you speak, air pushes from your lungs through your vocal cords and out of your mouth. The air makes the vocal cords vibrate, or move back and forth really fast. Picture the strings on a guitar. This vibration makes sound, just like a strummed guitar does. And like guitar strings, smaller cords create a higher sound. Girls' vocal cords are usually shorter and thinner than most boys’, which is why their voices sound higher. This difference in pitch is even more noticeable in grown-up men and women.

When you get a little older, you'll experience something called puberty (PYOO-bur-tee). It's your first step towards being an adult. Boys' bodies start producing a lot of testosterone (tes-TOSS-tuh-rone). This is a hormone. It acts like a chemical messenger to different parts of the body. Testosterone tells the body to change in all sorts of ways, like making bigger muscles and growing hair in new places. It also makes a boy's vocal cords grow thicker and longer. That makes his voice sound deeper. Girls' bodies produce testosterone too, but not as much as boys' do. Their bodies also produce another hormone called estrogen (ESS-tro-jen). These hormones make girls' vocal cords get bigger during puberty, but they don't grow as big as boys'. So girls' voices sound higher.

Have you experimented with making your voice sound different? When you speak in a really low voice you’re contracting your vocal cords to make them thicker. When you talk in a really high voice you're stretching them to make them thin. Do you want to see what this looks like? Stretch a thick rubber band and pluck it. What does it sound like? Now stretch a thin rubber band. I bet it sounds different! 

For further reading on your voice and how it changes, visit Kids Health

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Animals
Why Do Female Spotted Hyenas Give Birth Through Their Pseudo-Penises?
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YouTube

At the zoo, you can sometimes tell the difference between male and female animals by noting their physical size, their behavior, and yes, their nether regions. Hyenas, however, flip the script: Not only are lady spotted hyenas bigger and meaner than their male counterparts, ruling the pack with an iron paw, they also sport what appear to be penises—shaft, scrotum, and all.

"Appear" is the key word here: These 7-inch-long phalluses don't produce sperm, so they're technically really long clitorises in disguise. But why do female hyenas have them? And do they actually have to (gulp) give birth through them? Wouldn't that hurt … a lot?

The short answers to these questions are, respectively, "We don't know," "Yes," and "OW." Longer answers can be found in this MinuteEarth video, which provides the full lowdown on hyena sex. Don't say we didn't warn you.

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science
Are Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll Really Linked? Researchers Investigate
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Steve Wood/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Around the world, sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll are said to go hand-in-hand. But do they? As PsyPost reports, a pair of Pennsylvania psychologists recently dove into the empirical evidence tying the three together, asking college students to talk about their drug use, sex lives, and music preferences and talents to suss out whether people who play and enjoy rock music really do have more active sex lives and drug use.

Published in the journal Human Ethnology Bulletin, the study [PDF] of 467 students relied on self-reporting, which isn't typically the most reliable evidence—people are wont to exaggerate how often they've had sex, for instance—but the survey also asked them about their desires, posing questions like "If you could, how frequently would you have sex?" It also asked about how often the students drank and what drugs they had tried in their lifetimes. They also described their musical experience and what kind of music they listened to.

The results were mixed, but the researchers identified a relationship between liking faster, "harder" music and having more sex and doing more drugs. Acoustic indie rock aficionados weren't getting quite as wild as heavy metal fans. High-tempo-music lovers were more likely to have taken hallucinogenic drugs like LSD, for example, and tended to have had more sexual partners in the previous year than people who favored slower types of music. According to the study, previous research has found that attention-seeking people are more likely to enjoy "hard" music.

The study didn't have a diverse enough group either in age or in ethnicity to really begin to make sweeping generalizations about humans, especially since college students (the participants were between 18 and 25) tend to engage in more risky behaviors in general. But this could lay the groundwork for future research into the topic. Until then, it might be more accurate to change the phrase to "sex, drugs, and heavy metal."

[h/t PsyPost]

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