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Comment Re:Sorry, No. (Score 1) 799

Science has not provided a robust explanation for the origin of the universe. It cannot explain the four forces. It cannot explain time.

What we have from science is a much better explanation than anything from religion, which is to say no explanation at all. The Big Bang and rapid expansion, while simple, at least takes into account data at hand. The Sky Fairy on a six-day creation tour doesn't.

United States

Submission + - Majority of US Scientists Identify as Democrats (people-press.org) 4

Ripit writes: According to a Pew Research poll released on July 9, 2009, US scientists overwhelmingly identify themselves as Democrats. 55% of scientists say they are Democrats, compared to 35% of the general population. Only 6% of scientists say they are Republicans, compared to 23% of the general population. Surprisingly, scientists identified themselves as independents less often than the population as a whole, 32% to 34%, respectively.
Input Devices

Best Mouse For Programming? 569

LosManos writes "Which is the best programming mouse? Mandatory musts are wireless, and that it doesn't clog up like old mechanical mice. Present personal preferences are for: lots of buttons, since if I have moved my hand away from the keyboard I can at least do something more than move the pointer; sturdy feeling; not too light, so it doesn't move around by me accidentally looking at it." What would you recommend?

Comment Re:Interesting! (Score 1) 139

Interesting replies.

I'll merely point out that instruments other than flute are constructed to make the pentatonic scale simple to play - the black notes on the keyboard are the most obvious. The scale, and the pitches exist independently of the instruments that produce them.

The AC's post regarding perception of harmonics in the brain bears this out. The pentatonic scale offers all the consonant intervals, leaving out only minor seconds and augmented fourths. I guess we shouldn't be surprised that people perceived consonance 35,000 years ago.

Comment Re:Interesting! (Score 1) 139

I am a tenured professional orchestra musician.

The example shows clearly an accurate major pentatonic scale. The pitches are Eb, F, G, Bb, and C. The proximity to modern pitch is incidental, as pitch has been standardized for only a couple hundred years. The important thing is the distance between the pitches, or the ratio of one pitch to the rest. The pentatonic scale has ratios of 1:9/8:5/4:3/2:5/3, meaning if Eb is given the value of 1, F is 9/8 of Eb, G is 5/4 of Eb, Bb is 3/2 of Eb, and C is 5/3 of Eb. To construct an instrument that can play exactly (apparently exclusively) this scale shows, even if only through sound, an understanding of the mathematics underlying the scale.

The chance of constructing an instrument that happens to produce these exact ratios is impossibly small. Considering this and that it has a functionally placed embouchure hole opens up more possibilities. The person who made this instrument had made them before, or was taught by someone who had, or made it in imitation of something already seen. Now we know the pentatonic scale, which has been found all over the world is at least 35,000 years old. That's staggering.

Comment Re:Interesting! (Score 2, Interesting) 139

I'm a tenured professional orchestra musician. I'll try to explain.

NotBornYesterday's conclusion was dead on! The AC is also correct.

In the example, the ancient flute played the pitches Eb, F, G, Bb, and C, which is a simple pentatonic scale. When in this particular order, it's called a major pentatonic scale. It's incidental that the pitches are close to these modern pitches (AC's point). The important thing is the distance from one pitch to the next, or in other words, the ratio of one pitch to another (NBY's point).

The ratios in the pentatonic scale are 1:9/8:5/4:3/2:5/3. So if you set Eb as 1, F is 9/8 of Eb, G is 5/4 of Eb, Bb is 3/2 of Eb, and C is 5/3 of Eb. The ratios are what is important. The absolute value of the pitch in Hertz is incidental. The maker of this flute understood these ratios, and constructed the flute accordingly.

The fact that people were using the pentatonic scale 35,000 years ago or more is stunning.

Comment Re:Interesting! (Score 1) 139

Almost like the laws of physics haven't changed at all!

I think you missed the point. The amazing thing is that 35,000 years ago, we understood, in a simple way, this specific law of physics.

Same size shaft, holes, and lengths will produce nearly the same frequency.

Well, this flute doesn't have the same size shaft, holes, and length as a modern Western flute. This flute is much smaller. But it's not surprising that the modern flute shares part of its range with it. The modern flute has a 3 1/2+ octave range and is capable of extreme dynamics, incredible pitch accuracy, and quick technical facility, thanks to 35,000+ years worth of mechanical engineering, metallurgy, and artistry. The surprise in this story is that people were playing pentatonic scales 35,000 years ago, and had refined instruments to do it.

Comment Re:Interesting! (Score 5, Interesting) 139

Disclaimer - IAPOM. I am a professional orchestral musician.

"Harmonics" doesn't really mean anything in this sense. Flutes don't play two notes simultaneously, so there is no harmony. This flute is capable of playing at least 5 distinct pitches, or at least 10 if you count overblowing to get a higher octave. The notes in the example are Eb, F, G, Bb, and C, which is a pentatonic scale.

This is the most amazing thing to me. The pentatonic scale's pitches have the simple frequency ratios of 1:9/8:5/4:3/2:5/3. Instruments designed to play this scale have been found almost everywhere humans play music. The person that made this instrument perceived, through sound, these simple mathematical ratios. 35,000 years ago, humans had already discovered the beauty in mathematics.

Also, I can draw the conclusion that the person that made this flute had made flutes previously, or learned from someone who did. The chances of gouging holes in a bone at random and having a very accurate pentatonic scale along with a serviceable embouchure hole in the end product is vanishingly small. This skill is learned by trial and error or instruction. This opens up more questions. If the maker of this flute didn't invent the pentatonic scale, who did? How old is the scale?

Comment Re:Was Slashdot This Fucking Lame 10 Years Ago? (Score 3, Insightful) 1354

Even now, the level of discourse here is quite a bit above most sites that allow comments. The only thing that's really sunk significantly is the quality of the trolls.

The level of discourse is what keeps people coming back. Sometimes I just want to read a good debate. Is there a better place?

As for the trolls, they keep me laughing, too.

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