Question of the week: Why do British singers loose their accents when they sing?

imagesMay 9, 2014 — Many singers who grew up in the United Kingdom, or any other part of the world outside of the U.S., have very noticeable speaking accents detectable by the American ear. Once they take the stage, however, they suddenly sound like someone who grew up right next door. How does this happen?

According to phonetic experts, most singers lose their “accents” because the “American” accent is neutral. This is also true for most American singers with heavy regional accents from Boston, or one of the southern states, for example, who also sound “neutral” American when performing.

Phonetic experts also explain that while a person’s accent is noticeable when speaking at a normal speed, a song’s melody often cancels the intonations of speech, forcing singers to elongate their vowels, creating a more neutral sound.

I’m so glad I know that now.

Question of the week: How far east can you go before you begin to head west?

downloadMay 2, 2014 — Sounds like a tricky question, but the truth is you are always heading east if you are heading east, even if you are in the west. It’s impossible to head west while heading east, unless you change direction.

However, if you travel north and keep going, eventually you would begin traveling south.

Latitude and longitude aside, this mind bender still hurts my head a little.

Question of the week: What is the difference between partly sunny and partly cloudy?

downloadApril 25, 2014 – The first thing many of us do each morning is check the weather; it could have a huge impact on our day.

When I hear a forecast call for partly sunny or partly cloudy skies, I always wonder about the difference? Is it a glass half full/half empty situation, or is there science behind it?

It makes sense that when it is partly sunny, there is more sun than clouds, and vice versa. However, the answer, according to some experts, is not that simple. The Weather Forecast Office in Montana explains that there is no actual difference between partly sunny and partly cloudy. Rather, it is up to the weather person to emphasize sun or clouds.

Still, there are opinions that differ. Some experts at the National Weather Service, for example, prefer a more scientific explanation. They define partly sunny as a predominant sky condition that is 3/8 to 4/8 clear, and partly cloudy as a predominant sky condition with 3/8 to 4/8 cloud coverage.

I suppose it makes little difference since both forecasts call for a mixture of both sun and clouds. Still, the optimist in me will always see the sky as partly sunny over partly cloudy any day.

Question of the week: Why is yawning contagious?

imagesApril 18, 2014 – Yawning is a force so powerful, that if we see it, we often copy it. It is not something we physically transmit to another person, like a germ that gives you a cold, for example. Yet, we repeat the pattern as if to follow the old adage, “money see, monkey do”.

The experts at explain that yawning is contagious because of the “ancient, deep, and subconscious roots of empathy and social bonding. It is a primal instinct that bonds us together” much like contagious laugher or crying. This seems as logical, although newer research from Duke University found little evidence to back up this theory.

Not a lot is known about why we yawn, but here is what we do know: There are two types of yawns, contagious, which occurs when someone sees another person yawn and spontaneous, which occurs more often when someone is bored or tired.

Fetuses begin spontaneous yawning in the womb at about 11 weeks, and scientists recently dispelled the myth that people yawn to receive more oxygen. Many species of animals yawn spontaneously, while only humans, chimpanzees, and possibly dogs according to Japanese research, yawn contagiously. It has also been proven that yawning becomes contagious by age four, and that kids with autism are less likely to catch yawns than other kids.

Were you able to make it through this blog post without yawning? Perhaps not, as even reading about yawning is enough to make it contagious. I’ve yawned a few times while writing it, too.

It all seems simple enough yet yawning is a complex behavior that may never be explained. We have to accept it as just one of those things.