Category Archives: Media

Hefele

Duet Yourself – the science of polyphonic overtone singing

When most people praise the quality of a duet, they expect to be congratulating two people. But, as a video that’s gone viral this week has proved, that assumption need not always hold true. In just over eight days German singer Anna-Maria Hefele has racked up 4 million views on YouTube by demonstrating her phenomenal ability to sing two separate melodies at the same time.

Hefele’s performance is an example of polyphonic overtone singing, a technique which allows her to produce two distinct notes in perfect harmony.The lower of the two is generated by the vibrations of vocal folds in the larynx: the same process as occurs in everyday speech. This sound wave is said to have a fundamental frequency, as it has the longest wavelength that will fit inside the resonant cavity formed by the speaker’s mouth and throat.

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mean-girls

It’s October 3rd: The Mathematics of Mean Girls

Mean Girls is arguably the teen movie of my generation.

I’m not sure if this counts as a valid appraisal of a film’s popular impact, but a site-specific Google search of Buzzfeed alone turns up 7,890 results for posts about the 2004 teen rom-com. If this is compared to various other bits of pop culture, we can see that the 28th highest box office film of 2004 has had a phenomenal cultural impact. It rates just behind the 6-film behemoth that is the Star Wars franchise and well ahead of its rival Clueless. Somehow, in the over-saturated high-school drama genre, Mean Girls made its mark.
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If you’ve never seen the film, you’ll be wondering why I’m writing about it today. If you’ve seen the film once or twice, you may also be a little bemused. If, like me, you own multiple DVD copies because you keep one at your parents to have something to watch over Christmas, you’ll know that I’m writing this post today because on October 3rd Aaron Samuels asked Cady what day it was, and today is the tenth October 3rd since the movie’s release.

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Also if you’ve read this blog before, you’ll know we like to pick up on mathematics and science in pop culture. In Mean Girls, this isn’t particularly difficult as mathematics is used as the metaphorical weather vane for Cady Heron’s descent-into and subsequent ascent-out-of superficiality.

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ln2

Liquid nitrogen bucket challenge

The inevitable Ice Bucket Challenge notification came along, courtesy of the Brothers Pag. Anyone who knows me knows that I can’t swim, so I wasn’t prepared to take the risk of attempting the challenge.

Also I didn’t have any ice in my lab, but I did have a Dewar of Liquid Nitrogen, so here is Balloon Matt nobly taking the challenge in aid of the DEC Syria crisis appeal.

**SAFETY NOTICE** Don’t do this at home. If you have liquid nitrogen at home, why on earth do you have liquid nitrogen at home? Whilst pouring and transporting liquid N2, heavy duty cold-proof gloves and a face visor must be worn. Do not touch parts of the balloon directly after they have been in liquid nitrogen. NEVER POUR LIQUID NITROGEN OVER YOUR OWN HEAD a million things can go wrong and you can lose eyes skin and hair: remember what happened to Boris. Do not cool an air filled balloon for prolonged periods due to risks of liquid oxygen condensation. **THANK YOU**

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DocWho

The science at the end of the Whoniverse

Yes that’s right, Doctor Who is back on our screens, spitting himself out of dinosaurs’ mouths and into our hearts where he belongs. On this week’s episode, the first of Series 8, a homicidal android is stalking the streets of Victorian London, mutilating golden-hearted cockneys for their fleshier organs and turning the remains into donor kebabs in order to conceal the evidence of his crimes.

Slap bang into the middle of this mess lands the Tardis, lodged inside the throat of an exceptionally irritable tyrannosaur. Trapped on board are the wide-eyed Clara Oswald and the new and improved Time Lord Peter Capaldi – whose saurian features make the aforementioned reptile look positively cuddly.

The Doctor’s arrival is greeted with a clash of symbols.

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