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Middle aged heterosexual, WASP male. Semi retired, semi-sane and semi-serious. And endangered species and I'm not going quietly!!!!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Scientific Firsts

At first, the grainy high-pitched warble doesn't sound like much but scientists say the French recording from 1860 is the oldest known recorded human voice.

The 10-second clip of a woman singing "Au Clair de la Lune," taken from a so-called phonautogram, was recently discovered by audio historian David Giovannoni. The recording predates Thomas Edison's "Mary had a little lamb" - previously credited as the oldest recorded voice - by 17 years.

The tune was captured using a phonautograph, a device created by Parisian inventor Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville that made visual recordings of sound waves.

Using a needle that moved in response to sound, the phonautograph etched sound waves into paper coated with soot from an oil lamp.

Giovannoni and his research partner, Patrick Feaster, began looking for phonautograms last year and in December discovered two of Scott's - from 1857 and 1859 - in France's patent office. Using high-resolution optical-scanning equipment, Giovannoni collected images of the phonautograms that he took back to the United States.

"What Scott was trying to do in 1861 was establish that he was the first to arrive at this idea," Giovannoni said.

"He was depositing with the French Academy examples of his work."

"We took those images back to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and found that (Scott's) technique wasn't very developed," Giovannoni said.

"There were squiggles on paper but it was not recording sound."

So Giovannoni, who collaborates with many other audio historians, including scientists at Berkeley, asked the French Academy of Sciences to send digital scans of more of Scott's papers. Those scans arrived March 1.

"When I opened up the file, I nearly fell off my chair," Giovannoni said.

"We had beautifully recorded and preserved phonautograms, many of which had dates on them.

Here the recording H E R E

As if that weren't enough a New York auction house is selling a primitive photograph that could be a much earlier work than originally believed.

If so, it says, it would be one of the most important discoveries in the history of photography.

The work, "Leaf," to be sold at Sotheby's on April 7, is a photogenic drawing — a cameraless process in which an object is placed on silver nitrate-coated paper or leather to form a negative image.

It had previously been attributed to William Henry Fox Talbot, considered the father of photography along with Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre. It was thought to have been made in 1839 at what is widely accepted as the dawn of photography.

But Sotheby's says research by a leading photo expert suggests otherwise — that several early photo experimenters could be the authors, including Thomas Wedgwood, James Watt and Humphry Davy, who worked in the medium decades earlier. If that theory is true, it means the photo could have been made as early as 1790.

What it will fetch at auction is anyone's guess, said Denise Bethel, Sotheby's director of photography.

Allan W Janssen is the author of the book The Plain Truth About God (What the mainstream religions don't want you to know!) and is available at the web site www.God-101.com

Visit the blog "Perspective" at http://God-101.blogspot.com

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