How Tone-Deaf Are You? This Test Can Tell

iStock.com/Orbon Alija
iStock.com/Orbon Alija

We can’t all have the vocal range of Mariah Carey or the ability to belt out a tune like Beyoncé, but on the bright side, you’re probably a pro at picking out tones. Only about 4 percent of people have congenital amusia, or tone-deafness, which means they’re unable to distinguish between different pitches or musical notes. If you think your ears are up to the challenge, this online test from Harvard University can tell how tone-deaf you are (or aren’t) in just five minutes, according to The Verge.

If you choose to participate, you’ll be asked to listen to a series of tones and decide whether the fourth pitch in each set went up or down, using the “u” and “d” keys on your desktop or laptop computer (it might not work for mobile phone or tablet users). Some of the pitches are extremely similar, making the test a little tricky.

Your results will be anonymously logged by the university’s Music Lab, which is currently studying how pitch perception varies from place to place, and how it might be related to previous musical experiences, like learning an instrument. You won’t be compensated for your participation, but you will get to find out exactly how your pitch perception stacks up against other people.

Answering fewer than 20 questions correctly is considered a poor performance, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your dreams of singing on The Voice are dashed. For those interested in a more comprehensive test, The Music Lab recommends taking an online test offered by the International Laboratory for Brain, Music, and Sound Research.

Harvard’s Music Lab is also offering three other listening tests right now. In one, participants are asked to guess what different songs are meant to be used for (such as dancing or soothing a baby); in another, participants are asked whether the intended audience for a recording is an adult or baby. The last one asks participants to compare synth versions of songs with the original, among other tasks.

[h/t The Verge]

Bombshell, Victoria’s Secret’s Bestselling Fragrance, Also Happens to Repel Mosquitoes

Dids, Pexels
Dids, Pexels

People love Bombshell, the best-selling fragrance at Victoria’s Secret, for its summery blend of fruity and floral notes. Not everyone is a huge fan, though: As Quartz reports, the perfume is surprisingly good at warding off mosquitoes. In fact, it’s almost as effective as DEET insect repellent, according to the results of a 2014 experiment by researchers at New Mexico State University.

Researchers took 10 products that are commercially available and tested their ability to repel two different species of mosquitoes: the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) and the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), both of which are known to transmit diseases like dengue fever, chikungunya, and yellow fever. In doing so, volunteers subjected their own flesh to the test by placing their hands on either side of a Y-shaped tube containing the blood-sucking critters. One hand was covered in a synthetic rubber glove, while the other hand was sprayed with one of the products but otherwise left bare. Researchers recorded which tunnel the mosquitoes flew to, and how long they avoided the other end.

Three of the products contained DEET, while four products didn’t. In addition, there were two fragrances (including Bombshell) and one vitamin B1 skin patch. The DEET products were the most effective, but Bombshell proved to be nearly as good, keeping mosquitoes at bay for roughly two hours.

“There was some previous literature that said fruity, floral scents attracted mosquitoes, and to not wear those,” Stacy Rodriquez, one of the study’s authors, said in a statement. “It was interesting to see that the mosquitoes weren’t actually attracted to the person that was wearing the Victoria’s Secret perfume—they were repelled by it.”

This isn’t the first time a perfume has had an unintended effect on the natural world. It turns out that tigers are obsessed with Calvin Klein’s Obsession for Men cologne, partly because it contains a synthetic version of civetone, a pheromone that's secreted by glands located near a civet’s anus. This substance was once used to create musky fragrances, but nowadays the scent is mostly reproduced in a lab. Still, the fake stuff must be pretty convincing, because big cats go crazy when they catch a whiff of it.

[h/t Quartz]

Mystery Solved: Scientists Have Figured Out Why Some Squirrels Are Black

Rena-Marie/iStock via Getty Images
Rena-Marie/iStock via Getty Images

It can be something of a surprise to see an animal sporting a fresh coat of paint. Blue lobsters occasionally surface after being caught in traps. A pink dolphin was spotted in Louisiana in 2007 (and several times since). In the Chinese province of Shaanxi, a cute brown and white panda greets zoo visitors.

Another anomalous animal has joined their ranks. Black squirrels have been spotted in both the United States and the UK, and now scientists believe they know why.

Like many animals with unusual color schemes, black squirrels are the result of a genetic detour. Researchers at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge University, and the Virginia Museum of Natural History collaborated on a project that tested squirrel DNA. Their findings, which were published in BMC Evolutionary Biology, demonstrated that the black squirrel is the product of interspecies breeding between the common gray squirrel and the fox squirrel. The black squirrel is actually a gray squirrel with a faulty pigment gene carried over from the fox squirrel that turns their fur a darker shade. (Some fox squirrels, which are usually reddish-brown, are also black.)

A black squirrel is pictured
sanches12/iStock via Getty Images

Scientists theorize a black fox squirrel may have joined in on a mating chase involving gray squirrels and got busy with a female. The black fur may offer benefits in colder regions, with squirrels able to absorb and retain more heat, giving them a slight evolutionary edge.

In North America, black squirrels are uncommon, with one estimate putting them at a rate of one in every 10,000 squirrels. In 1961, students at Kent State University in Ohio released 10 black squirrels that had been captured by Canadian wildlife authorities. The squirrels now populate the campus and have become the school’s unofficial mascot. Their coloring might help them hide from predators, which might come in handy at Kent State: The campus is also home to hawks.

[h/t The Guardian]

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