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Wild Music in the News

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Updated: 7 years 5 days ago

In tune or out of tune – people with no formal musical training versus professional musicians

September 10, 2015 - 4:40am
Not everyone has the ability to sing. But is everyone capable of hearing when a song is out of tune? "Pop Idol", "The Voice of Germany"… there are many music casting shows and talent contests based on viewers' voting. However, the television viewership is not comprised of professional musicians, but of laypersons. Are they really capable of judging non-professional singers?

Should I feel good about choosing clothes made from wood?

September 10, 2015 - 4:03am

Q. What do you think of wood-derived fiber used for clothing? Does this type of fiber put less of a strain on the environment than other naturally derived fibers, such as cotton? This particular company advertises sustainable practices, however with no specific examples of how this is applied.


A. Dearest Alison,

My thoughts on this subject are quite similar to my thoughts on foods such as sweetbreads and head cheese. Do I like them? Yes, I do – but only when they’re carefully chosen, meticulously prepared, and thoughtfully presented. (Oh dear, that certainly makes me sound like a foodie.) So it is with tank tops that used to be trees: When produced sustainably, they can be a nice addition to our closets. When not, we should steer clear.

The wood-derived fibers you cite are technically known as regenerated cellulose fibers: They originally come from plants, usually trees and bamboo, but they’re considered human-made because they need significant chemical processing before they’re in any shape to clothe anyone. Some of these fibers may be familiar (rayon, viscose), while others are a bit more obscure (lyocell, brand name TENCEL, and wet modulus rayon, brand name MODAL). These woody threads are all made a bit differently, but they share a certain soft feel and nice draping quality.

Clothes made from trees or bamboo sure sound appealing, especially when compared to petro-products like polyester, don’t they? But there are two major environmental issues associated with such items. The first, unfortunately, is deforestation. We’re logging trees everywhere from Canada’s boreal forests to the tropics of Indonesia and Brazil to produce the wood pulp that becomes fabric, and in some cases, we’re not doing it very sustainably. According to the conservation nonprofit Canopy, in fact, 30 percent of all rayon and viscose come from “endangered or ancient forests.” I’m not so keen to swathe myself in old-growth palms, and I’m guessing you’re not either, Alison.

There is a bright side, though. Quite a few brands — including H&M, Patagonia, Quiksilver, and Lululemon — have signed on to a campaign led by Canopy pledging to stop using any cellulose fibers that come from threatened forests. Patagonia, for example, says it buys wood-derived material only from Forest Stewardship Council-certified plantations and forests, and Lenzing (the company behind TENCEL and MODAL, and the one you linked to in your question) also boasts FSC bona fides. So if I were shopping, I’d give my business to a company that has publicly sworn off of willy-nilly rainforest logging.

But not so fast: Remember the chemical processing I referred to earlier? As you might have guessed, that can involve some noxious stuff. Rayon and viscose are the worst offenders, because they’re produced with highly toxic solvents that endanger factory workers’ health and pose a major risk to the surrounding air and water. Factories only recover about half of one nasty chemical used, carbon disulfide, ominously sending the rest out into the environment.

Lyocell, on the other hand, is made using a different process — one that Lenzing says uses less toxic chemicals and recovers almost all of its solvents in a closed-loop system. TENCEL also comes from FSC-certified eucalyptus farms; the fresh-smelling trees get a thumb’s up from the Natural Resources Defense Council because they’re fast-growing and can thrive on otherwise marginal land. Really, it seems most fabric sustainability experts agree that lyocell is tops among all the wood-derived duds — so shop accordingly.

You asked how the cellulose crew compares to other natural fibers, such as cotton. (Not to be confusing, but did you know cotton is 90 percent cellulose?) Conventional cotton certainly has its problems: namely, huge water use and heavy doses of pesticides and insecticides. And I did find one Life Cycle Analysis that looked at the environmental impact of cellulose-based fibers vs. cotton and polyester based on energy, water, and land use — and the cellulose came out ahead, with cotton dead last. But, as we’ve seen, we should be careful about which wood-derived fabrics we choose to adorn ourselves.

In the end — and loyal readers, you knew this was coming — the very best fashion-related decision we can make is to shop secondhand. And if you can unearth some organic cotton or lyocell in the thrift shop heap, so much the better.



Filed under: Business & Technology, Living, Science

Female mice sing for sex

September 9, 2015 - 10:00pm
(University of Delaware) Male mice belt out love songs to females during courtship. What scientists didn't know until now is female mice sing back. Using a sophisticated array of microphones and a sound chamber he developed, a University of Delaware researcher discovered the world is full of tiny furry Beyoncés. Studying mouse communication provides insight into brain mechanics and impairments, potentially including those related to autism.

Ancient Peru Tar Pools Trapped Hundreds of Songbirds

September 9, 2015 - 5:26pm
A dusty, windy desert in extreme northwestern Peru was once a grassland, replete with hundreds of songbirds. But this grassland was also a trap. Tar seeps bubbling up from the oil-rich ground snared the likes of saber-toothed cats and songbirds.

Microsoft, US clash in court on overseas email warrant

September 9, 2015 - 1:14pm
Microsoft and the US government clashed Wednesday in an appellate court hearing on law enforcement access to emails stored overseas, in a case with important implications for global data protection.

New jawless fish found from the Lower Devonian of Yunnan, China

September 8, 2015 - 6:50am
The Galeaspida is a clade of armored jawless vertebrates. Most galeaspids have a strongly flattened head-shield, dorsally set eyes, and a ventral mouth, indicating a benthic lifestyle moving on sandy or muddy substrates in coastal, marine environment. Dr. ZHU Min, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP), Chinese Academy of Sciences, and his team described a new galeaspid, Rhegmaspis xiphoidea, from the Lower Devonian Posongchong Formation of Zhaotong, Yunnan Province, China. The new form has a torpedo-shaped head-shield, a long rostral process and ventrolaterally set eyes, which highlight an adaptation to an active suprabenthic lifestyle as reported in the journal of Vertebrata PalAsiatica.

Small Earthquake Rattles Sonoma County

September 7, 2015 - 10:30am

CBS San Francisco Connect With Us At KPIX 5 PROGRAM GUIDE: KPIX 5 TV Schedule WATCH: A Glimpse Inside The Working KPIX 5 Newsroom Breaking News Send news tips, video & photos, and video to the KPIX 5 [] CONNECT WITH KCBS Welcome to KCBS All News 740AM & 106.9FM on CBSSanFrancisco.com! LISTEN LIVE RIGHT NOW: KCBS Live Audio Stream LIKE KCBS Radio On Facebook: KCBS is the Bay Area's only all news station, serving [] MENLO PARK - The U.S. Geological Survey reported a 2.9-magnitude earthquake Monday morning in Sonoma County. The tremor was recorded at 7:35 a.m. about 7 miles northwest of Napa at an estimated depth of 5.3 miles, according to the USGS.

California Faces Threat of Earthquake-Triggered Tsunamis

September 6, 2015 - 4:32pm
Californians may be used to hearing about the threat of potentially deadly earthquakes, but a new study finds that quake-triggered tsunamis pose a greater risk to Southern California than previously thought.

3D printing revives bronze-age music

September 2, 2015 - 8:23am
An archaeologist has 3D-printed a replica of an iron-age artifact to revive a rich musical culture in ancient Ireland, uncovering evidence that the artifact may have been a mouthpiece from an iron-age horn and not a spear-butt as previously thought.

Hot summer fuels dangerous glacier melting in Central Asia

September 2, 2015 - 6:24am
It began with a low rumbling noise. Then the rivers of mud poured down the mountainside over the Tajik village of Barssem—the latest victim of shrinking glaciers that are an alarming portent of climate change in Central Asia.

Road Noise Takes a Toll on Migrating Birds

September 1, 2015 - 1:30pm
Researchers built a "phantom road" through wilderness using tree-mounted speakers to play traffic sounds, and witnessed a decline in bird fitness and diversity. Christopher Intagliata...

-- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

Listening to roads before construction

August 31, 2015 - 6:56am
They're going to build a new road right outside your living room window. The authorities have sent you a 'noise map', but what you really need is to hear what the traffic noise will sound like. Well, soon you can.

'Awakenings' author, neurologist Oliver Sacks dies at 82

August 30, 2015 - 11:42pm
NEW YORK (AP) -- There was the blind man who had the disastrous experience of regaining his sight. The surgeon who developed a sudden passion for music after being struck by lightning. And most famously, the man who mistook his wife for a hat....

Apple's music service losing key player as exec resigns

August 28, 2015 - 9:05am
Apple's online music subscription service is losing a key player as millions of listeners near the end of a free three-month trial period that has drawn mixed reviews.

Study suggests older adults possess important forms of expertise

August 28, 2015 - 7:28am
Chapman University's research on aging and skill development appears as the lead article in the latest issue of American Journal of Physical Anthropology. The study, called "Skill Ontogeny Among Tsimane Forager-Horticulturalists," provides the most complete analysis to date of skill development in a traditional society. The results show that most skills essential to Tsimane survival are acquired prior to first reproduction, and then develop further to meet the increasing demands of offspring. As adults continue to age beyond their reproductive years, despite physical frailty setting in, they are often regarded as experts - such as in music and storytelling.

Researcher discover songbird habitat affects reproduction, survival

August 27, 2015 - 2:44pm
A University of Montana professor who studies birds around the world has discovered trends in how the offspring grow, how parents care for the young and how well the young survive based on where they live. Now, his songbird research is hitting the right notes with the journal Science.

Cause of resilience to tinnitus and potential drug therapy identified

August 27, 2015 - 10:19am
Researchers have identified in an animal model the molecular mechanisms behind resilience to noise-induced tinnitus and a possible drug therapy that could reduce susceptibility to this chronic and sometimes debilitating condition.

Schlieren images reveal supersonic shock waves

August 27, 2015 - 6:08am
NASA researchers in California are using a modern version of a 150-year-old German photography technique to capture images of shock waves created by supersonic airplanes. Over the past five years scientists from NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base and Ames Research Center at Moffett Field have teamed up to demonstrate how schlieren imagery, invented in 1864 by German physicist August Toepler, can be used to visualize supersonic flow phenomena with full-scale aircraft in flight. The results will help engineers to design a quiet supersonic transport. Although current regulations prohibit unrestricted overland supersonic flight in the United States, a clear understanding of the location and relative strength of shock waves is essential for designing future high-speed commercial aircraft.

Pitt team identifies cause of resilience to tinnitus, potential drug therapy

August 26, 2015 - 10:00pm
(University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences) Researchers have identified in an animal model the molecular mechanisms behind resilience to noise-induced tinnitus and a possible drug therapy that could reduce susceptibility to this chronic and sometimes debilitating condition. The findings by a team from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine were published online in the journal eLife.

Neurobiology: Tuning of timing in auditory axons

August 26, 2015 - 8:20am
A team has shown that the axons of auditory neurons in the brainstem which respond to low and high-frequency sounds differ in their morphology, and that these variations correlate with differences in the speed of signal conduction.