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Hear the Octobass, an Instrument (Almost) Too Big to Play

What’s nearly 12 feet tall, made of wood, and capable of producing a sound so low that most human beings can’t even hear it? That would be the octobass, the largest string instrument ever brought into existence. Though its curves and angles follow the familiar silhouette of its smaller stringed relatives (violins, violas, cellos, etc.), the octobass stands at a gargantuan 11 feet, 5 inches—so high, even a professional basketball player would have to stand on a platform to reach the instrument’s neck.

In addition to its recognizable shape, the octobass shares with other string instruments the same mechanisms for producing sound; a player holds down certain strings in a particular pattern to modify their pitch, then draws out the notes by plucking, strumming, or bowing those strings. However, whereas a violin can be scaled down to half- or three-quarter-size for a small child unable to stretch their fingers to reach all the frets, no aspiring octobass player can scale themselves up to accommodate the total distance of its fingerboard. Instead, the octobassist must become familiar with a series of levers attached to mechanisms that press the strings down, which they operate while simultaneously handling a bow that’s shorter, but much heavier than a typical bass bow. When legendary French luthier Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume constructed the original “octobasse” in 1850, it was considered a two-player instrument, with one musician assigned to the levers and another to the bow, both working to produce a single sound.

It tunes to two full octaves below a cello and one octave below a standard double bass or the lowest note on a piano, and its range extends down to a C note pitched at 16 hertz—lower than the normal human hearing range, which bottoms out at about 20 hertz. Colin Pearson, curator of the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) in Phoenix, Arizona, explains the value of such an apparently un-musical instrument in a way that makes it seem like a very expensive science fair project: “It’s wonderful for demonstrating how sound waves work, and how a string vibrates. These strings are so large and so massive that the vibrations are slow enough for us to actually see them.”

Despite Vuillaume’s intention for the octobass to take its rightful place among other members of a traditional orchestra, modern uses of the instrument are few and far between, in part due to its scarcity. Vuillaume built three models of his massive invention, and today, only three playable replicas exist around the world: the one in Phoenix, another in Paris, and a third newly built in 2015, which debuted with an original composition for octobass and violin at Oslo’s Only Connect Festival of Sound. Nico Abondolo, principal bass player of the LA Chamber Orchestra and favored bassist of Hollywood composers like Hans Zimmer, says that his time experimenting with MIM’s octobass was “a surreal experience.”

While it holds a certain fascination, the octobass won’t be making a resurgence in popularity anytime soon. It is, however, perfectly suited for playing one song in particular: the theme song from 1975 thriller Jaws.

[h/t Open Culture]

Banner images via YouTube.

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The Most Searched Shows on Netflix in 2017, By State

Orange is the New Black is the new black, at least as far as Netflix viewers are concerned. The women-in-prison dramedy may have premiered in 2013, but it’s still got viewers hooked. Just as they did in 2017, HighSpeedInternet.com took a deep dive into Netflix analytics using Google Trends to find out which shows people in each state were searching Netflix for throughout the year. While there was a little bit of crossover between 2016 and 2017, new series like American Vandal and Mindhunter gave viewers a host of new content. But that didn’t stop Orange is the New Black from dominating the map; it was the most searched show in 15 states.

Coming in at a faraway second place was American Vandal, a new true crime satire that captured the attention of five states (Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin). Even more impressive is the fact that the series premiered in mid-September, meaning that it found a large and rabid audience in a very short amount of time.

Folks in Alaska, Colorado, and Oregon were all destined to be disappointed; Star Trek: Discovery was the most searched-for series in each of these states, but it’s not yet available on Netflix in America (you’ve got to get CBS All Access for that, folks). Fourteen states broke the mold a bit with shows that were unique to their state only; this included Big Mouth in Delaware, The Keepers in Maryland, The OA in Pennsylvania, GLOW in Rhode Island, and Black Mirror in Hawaii.

Check out the map above to see if your favorite Netflix binge-watch matches up with your neighbors'. For more detailed findings, visit HighSpeedInternet.com.

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Monthly Internet Costs in Every Country

Thanks to the internet, people around the world can conduct global research, trade tips, and find faraway friends without ever leaving their couch. Not everyone pays the same price for these digital privileges, though, according to new data visualizations spotted by Thrillist.

To compare internet user prices in each country, cost information site HowMuch.net created a series of maps. The data comes courtesy of English market research consultancy BDRC and Cable.co.uk, which teamed up to analyze 3351 broadband packages in 196 nations between August 18, 2017 and October 12, 2017.

In the U.S., for example, the average cost for internet service is $66 per month. That’s substantially more than what browsers pay in neighboring Mexico ($27) and Canada ($55). Still, we don’t have it bad compared to either Namibia or Burkina Faso, where users shell out a staggering $464 and $924, respectively, for monthly broadband access. In fact, internet in the U.S. is far cheaper than what residents in 113 countries pay, including those in Saudi Arabia ($84), Indonesia ($72), and Greenland ($84).

On average, internet costs in Asia and Russia tend to be among the lowest, while access is prohibitively expensive in sub-Saharan Africa and in certain parts of Oceania. As for the world’s cheapest internet, you’ll find it in Ukraine and Iran.

Check out the maps below for more broadband insights, or view HowMuch.net’s full findings here.

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

[h/t Thrillist]

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