Whale song, Sound, Rockets, Feral Cats, Plutonium

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Whale Song Explained

David Rothenberg & Michael Deal | Medium | 10th October 2015

Humpback whales' “shrill wails, deep growls ... and spectral moans combine into ... patterns so structured that they fit any conventional definition of music.” First detected in the 60's by underwater Cold War microphones, the sonic units were soon categorized and assigned a Gregorian chant-like notation. A newly enhanced musical notation shows the beauty, structure, and collectively synchronized evolution of the whales' songs (1,880 words)

Sound Decision

Adi Robertson | Verge | 7th October 2015

On the "audio branding" of dial tones and other digital sounds at Skype, Apple and Microsoft (with lovely use of nostalgia-inducing clickable embedded audio). Brian Eno was tasked to create the boot sound for Windows 95, with instructions demanding an "inspiring, universal, blah-blah, da-da-da, optimistic, futuristic, sentimental, emotional," sound. "And then at the bottom it said, 'And it must be 3 1/4 seconds long.'" (3,680 words)

The Rocket Man Who Wants To Beat the Billionaires

"The commercial space industry is dominated by outsize ambition:" Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk. "[Dave] Masten is different. He's from Cleveland, for one thing. He doesn't evangelize. He doesn't want to be bothered with micromanagement and self-aggrandizement." Endearingly cliché underdog profile of a small company that wants to build a reusable unmanned orbital space plane for NASA (2,040 words)

Australia’s War On Feral Cats

William Lynn | The Conversation | 7th October 2015

An environmental ethicist critiques the science and ethics of Australia's program to kill feral cats. We don't know how much cats truly threaten native ecosystems, and conservationists who back the program fail to recognize that individual animals, not just ecosystems, have "moral value." Their campaign also amounts to victim-blaming, shifting blame "away from the species ... truly culpable for the sorry state of our world" (1,920 words)

The Scientists Who Pee Plutonium

Matthew Gault | War is Boring | 7th October 2015

A very small "club" of scientists (just 26 members as of the mid-1990s, dating back to the Manhattan Project) have been exposed to plutonium in high enough doses that it comes out in their urine. They allow the US government to take annual samples and to track their health. Surprisingly, they have turned out well. Several, heavy smokers, died of lung cancer, but the group's longevity is 50% above the national average (990 words)

Video of the day: How The Giant Tortoise Got Its Name

What to expect: Classic QI clip (7'12")

Thought for the day

The soul is a verb. Not a noun
David Mitchell

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