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Posts Tagged ‘experiment’

Photo: Hyper Voisins.
A 705-foot banquet table meant to seat 648 people in a Paris neighborhood that’s seeking a more neighborly lifestyle.

It’s that time of year again — time for our valiant but hopeless block party, when we smile and reintroduce ourselves to neighbors that we will look right through when we bump into them in the market in January. If New England can’t make mutual support and cooperation work, how in the world can Paris?

Peter Yeung at the Guardian describes an experiment in France.

“It was a distinctly un-Parisian revolution although it began on an inner city street. No barricades were assembled to block the nearby boulevards and no radical students hurled cobblestones ripped from the pavement. …

“Instead, a 215-meter-long [about 705 feet] banquet table, lined with 648 chairs and laden with a home cooked produce, was set up along the Rue de l’Aude and those in attendance were urged to openly utter the most subversive of words: bonjour.

“For some, that greeting led to the first meaningful exchange between neighbors. ‘I’d never seen anything like it before,’ says Benjamin Zhong who runs a cafe in the area. ‘It felt like the street belonged to me, to all of us.’

“The revolutionaries pledged their allegiance that September day in 2017 to the self-styled République des Hyper Voisins, or Republic of Super Neighbors, a stretch of the 14th arrondissement on the Left Bank, encompassing roughly 50 streets and 15,000 residents. In the five years since, the republic – a ‘laboratory for social experimentation’ – has attempted to address the shortcomings of modern city living, which can be transactional, fast-paced, and lonely.

“The experiment encourages people not just to salute each other more in the street but to interact daily through mutual aid schemes, voluntary skills-sharing and organized meet ups.

“ ‘The stereotype of a Parisian is brusque and unfriendly,’ says Patrick Bernard, the former journalist and local resident who launched the project. ‘But city living doesn’t have to be unpleasant and anonymous. We want to create the atmosphere of a village in an urban space. [Conviviality] can become a powerful asset, an essential economic and social agent in the construction of tomorrow’s cities.’

“Nearly 2,000 people now attend weekly brunches and apéritifs in local restaurants, cultural outings, memory exchanges, children’s activities and more. During the pandemic, residents mobilized to make masks, deliver shopping to vulnerable neighbors and bake cakes to support a local charity. Crucial, too, is the digital aspect: dozens of WhatsApp groups include those dedicated to repairing broken devices, selling second-hand goods, and sharing healthcare resources. …

“Mireille Roberdeau, an 86-year-old widow who moved to the area in 2000, says the scheme has given her a reason to get up in the morning. ‘I was quite timid before,’ she adds. ‘I wouldn’t speak to anyone. I would scowl at people. But now I look forward to going out. It’s good because my doctor says I need to get out.’

“Roberdeau, now a keen user of the WhatsApp groups was hospitalized in March but says neighbors delivered her groceries when she got home. …

“Beyond the ‘eating, drinking and celebrating as social engineering,’ in the words of Bernard, that defined the initial stages of Hyper Voisins, the long-term targets – aimed at transforming the very nature and functioning of an urban neighborhood – come under four pillars: environment, healthcare, public spaces and mobility.

“It has, for example, collaborated with non-profit Les Alchimistes to install organic waste disposal points in former parking spaces and to turn the matter into compost. Perhaps more radically at a time of strained healthcare provision in France, it is launching a health clinic geared towards local needs. [It] will have a staff of 10 and offer extended opening hours, consultations without appointment and home visits. …

“To reduce local car use by residents and traders, Hyper Voisins plans to buy electric bikes with trailers and install a communal electric bike charger. It is also in talks with the mayor to potentially levy a local tax on unwanted businesses such as estate agents, banks and delivery hubs and give residents a vote on whether they can even move in. ‘We want to promote stores that improve our daily life,’ adds Bernard. ‘If not, like a polluter, they should pay.’ …

“A study by sociologist Camille Arnodin found that Hyper Voisins – and two other community volunteer projects in Paris – had reinforced pandemic resilience, transformed weak neighbourly links into strong bonds, improved social mixing and reduced social isolation. …

“[But it] noted issues over inclusion: the scheme could risk leaving out either those who don’t wish to participate in activities or those who ‘don’t feel included or informed.’ ”

What do you think? Several readers are more intimate with Paris than I am, having been there only once, decades ago. So I would love to hear what you think of the experiment. Good idea? Can’t possibly survive?

More at the Guardian, here.

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Photo: Visit Samso
This Danish island makes use of woods, water, and fields for school outdoors.

Erik’s Swedish/Danish niece and nephews live in Copenhagen and went back to school quite a long time ago. The youngest went first, taking his seat in a classroom full of Covid-19 protections. Meanwhile, in other parts of Denmark, outdoor learning is getting increased attention.

Rick Noack writes at the Washington Post, “On a balmy Monday afternoon earlier this month, Sebastian Lukas, 27, watched from across a clearing as his third- and fourth-grade students whittled branches into spearheads with sharp knives.

“His gaze turned to another group, who were supposed to be working on math problems. Two students, perched on a log, scrambled to produce their textbooks, just in time to look busy.

“Lukas began the year teaching in a classroom like any other, in Samso Frie Skole, a school on the Danish island of Samso. But when the novel coronavirus pandemic struck, the school, like many across the country, embraced a new way to hold certain classes: almost entirely outdoors.

“Instead of sitting at desks, Lukas’s students wander through a rambling woodland, lush with trees and crisscrossed by dirt tracks. …

“Some countries, including Germany, have a tradition of outdoor preschools and kindergartens, which have begun to catch on in the United States as well. The pandemic may drive more countries to experiment with the model for older students. …

“Samso, a sparsely populated, energy self-sufficient and carbon-neutral 44-square-mile island that was once a meeting point for Vikings, is a windy, hour-long trip by ferry from the mainland village of Hou.

“The Samso Frie Skole — a private school funded, like many others in Denmark, in large part through public grants — first pondered the move outdoors long before the pandemic. Coronavirus accelerated those plans.

“The new, forested area, surrounded by grain fields, includes old farmhouses, where students will be able to take shelter in bad weather, according to principal Anna Mattsson.

“ ‘It’s going to be a combination of indoors and outdoors,’ she said. The aim is to have students learn outside several times a week, with fluctuations based on weather.

“No one at the school said they were worried about the impending winter.

“ ‘We’re used to it,’ said Rikke Ulk, the chair of the school’s support association. ‘It’s a matter of dressing well.’

“Until the new buildings are ready, students must walk or bike more than a mile from their old classrooms to their new forest school. Teachers haul some of the younger children in carts affixed to bicycles.

“Milling about before one such shuttle ride on a September morning, Noa, 11, said she liked the new school setup. It’s ‘just so beautiful — it makes me happy,’ she said. …

“Some said they preferred certain aspects of learning inside. ‘Sometimes, it’s better just being in the classroom, so we can focus,’ said Sally, 12.

“Cian, 9, an aspiring cook or robot engineer, disagreed. ‘It’s better to be here,’ he said, holding his math book. ‘It’s cozier.’

“Lukas said outdoor class works better for some students than others. ‘But some kids who have a hard time sitting love to come out here,’ he said, and some students who struggled to focus on math indoors have shown aptitude outside. …

“One of the most commonly accepted Danish arguments in favor of outdoor schooling centers on health benefits, said Mads Bolling, a researcher at the Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen. Students are able to avoid the adverse affects of sitting still all day.

“But he cautioned that potential disadvantages are not yet fully understood, and some research suggests outdoor schooling appears to provide the most for children who are already highly motivated. …

“Even if outdoor class may not be practical for all schools or in all climates, said Bolling, it is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Samso Frie Skole plans to be flexible about which classes meet outside and which do not.” More here.

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Delicious array of gourmet cheese on a platter

Photo: Foodandmore

Dear Readers, You know that you have been wondering why the taste of cheese changes depending on what music it was exposed to during the aging process. So much more agreeable than wondering who the next president will be or “why the sea is boiling hot,” to quote the prescient Lewis Carroll!

Well, wonder no more. Jason Daley at the Smithsonian has the musical cheese story covered.

The creation of good cheese involves a complex dance between milk and bacteria. In a quite literal sense, playing the right tune while this dance unfolds changes the final product’s taste, a new study shows.

“Denis Balibouse and Cecile Mantovani at Reuters report that hip-hop, for example, gave the cheese an especially funky flavor, while cheese that rocked out to Led Zeppelin or relaxed with Mozart had milder zests.

“Last September, Swiss cheesemaker Beat Wampfler [whose day job is as a veterinarian] and a team of researchers from the Bern University of Arts placed nine 22-pound wheels of Emmental cheese in individual wooden crates in Wampfler’s cheese cellar. Then, for the next six months each cheese was exposed to an endless, 24-hour loop of one song using a mini-transducer, which directed the sound waves directly into the cheese wheels.

“The ‘classical’ cheese mellowed to the sounds of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. The ‘rock’ cheese listened to Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ An ambient cheese listened to Yello’s ‘Monolith,’ the hip-hop cheese was exposed to A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Jazz (We’ve Got)’ and the techno fromage raved to Vril’s ‘UV.’ A control cheese aged in silence, while three other wheels were exposed to simple high, medium and low frequency tones.

“According to a press release, the cheese was then examined by food technologists from the ZHAW Food Perception Research Group, which concluded that the cheese exposed to music had a milder flavor compared to the non-musical cheese. They also found that the hip-hop cheese had a stronger aroma and stronger flavor than other samples.

“The cheeses were then sampled by a jury of culinary experts during two rounds of a blind taste test. Their results were similar to the research group’s conclusions and the hip-hop cheese came out on top. …

“Michael Harenberg, director of the music program at Bern University of the Arts says he was skeptical of the whole project when Wampfler first approached him. ‘Then we discovered there is a field called sonochemistry that looks at the influences of sound waves, the effect of sound on solid bodies.’

“It turns out that Wampfler was rooting for the hip-hop cheese to win all along. Now, reports Reuters, he and his collaborators want to expose cheese to five to ten different types of hip-hop to see if it has similar effects.”

More here.

 

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Photo: YouTube
Long ago, music was recorded on a wax cylinder like this. Out of curiosity, contemporary opera singers experimented with wax recording at Lincoln Center’s New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

Once at my old job, we tried an ice-breaker game in which we said our first name and an adjective describing ourselves. My first name begins with “c,” and the first adjective that popped into my head was “curious.” Since then, I’ve often thought that was the right word for me. I am curious.

And I admire people whose curiosity takes them interesting places. Recently the curiosity of a Met tenor led to a fun experiment with wax recording that you can listen to online.

Anthony Tommasini writes at the New York Times, “Whenever Luciano Pavarotti was asked to name the greatest tenor ever, he always answered Enrico Caruso, who became a household name from his recordings, made from 1902 until his death in 1921.

“But how did Pavarotti know? Especially on Caruso’s breakthrough records, the sound is scratchy, wiry and wobbly. The same holds true for early recordings of Nellie Melba, Luisa Tetrazzini and other luminaries of that era. While there are entrancing hints of astonishing voices, it’s hard to tell what they were really like. If only we could record a singer today on the equipment used back then and compare the playbacks to modern recordings.

“Well, that precise experiment took place earlier this month at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, thanks to the curiosity of Piotr Beczala, a leading Met tenor.

“Touring the Met’s archives a couple of years ago, Mr. Beczala mentioned that his dream was to record some arias under early-20th-century conditions. He wanted to learn firsthand how faithful — or far-off — the results would be.

“Peter Clark, the company’s archivist, mentioned Mr. Beczala’s fantasy to Jonathan Hiam, the curator of the performing arts library’s Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound; Mr. Hiam then contacted Jerry Fabris, from the Thomas Edison National Historical Park in New Jersey, who knows a collector in Illinois who makes wax cylinders like those Edison once produced. …

“The material surrounding the wax cylinders is not really wax, [Mr. Fabris] said, but something called metallic soap. Before using the cylinders, he had to warm them up under a light to make the material soft enough for the stylus to cut grooves as the disc spun. …

“Mr. Beczala was first up, singing ‘Quando le sere al placido’ from ‘Luisa Miller,’ accompanied by Gerald Moore, who played on a small upright piano so as not to compete with the voices. Putting the cylinder in place, Mr. Fabris was careful not to touch the surface: Even a slight thumbprint can create an impression. While Mr. Beczala sang, Mr. Fabris held a small brush in one hand and a little squeezable air bag in the other to disperse the dustlike shards of wax that are created when the stylus cuts into the cylinders.

“Since the machine has no meter to check levels, Mr. Beczala tried out the opening of the aria twice, the second time moving closer to the machine. Both times, the ringing, virile quality of his sound came through fairly well, though dynamic variations essentially disappeared. Mr. Beczala was most rattled that his intonation sounded off — though this was a flaw of the equipment, not of his solid technique. …

“Listening to the playback, he commented that the resonance was not bad and that the high notes were O.K. But his softer singing sounded faint and distant, and the consonants, he said, ‘are nonexisting,’ though in the room his diction was excellent.”

Read more about this at the New York Times, here, and listen to the wax cylinder recordings the experiment produced.

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