Perfect pitch, portable bone-health monitor


New evidence that a coveted musical ability may be more learnable than conventionally thought, an effort to redesign jet engines to the point at which aircraft noise would be unnoticeable in the urban areas around airports, and other new developments in the science of sound are being featured in a web pressroom at next week's Acoustical Society of America (ASA) meeting in San Diego.

The ASA World Wide Press Room ( currently contains 21 detailed lay-language papers on these and other exciting new meeting results. The website also includes the general press release for the meeting, and a searchable database of all meeting abstracts.

In addition, a portable bone-health sensor and a study that shows how English and French classical music reflects the rhythm and melody of English and French speakers will be featured at a meeting press luncheon to be held on Tuesday, November 16 from 11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. in the Esquire Room of The Town and Country Hotel (500 Hotel Circle North, San Diego, CA 92108). The press luncheon speakers and topics are listed below. The entire acoustics meeting takes place from November 15-19, 2004. Reporters who wish to attend the luncheon, the meeting, or both, should reply to this message and fill out the form at the end of this release.

The following text describes the press luncheon topics, and lists some examples of lay language papers that are available online.

Acoustical Society of America Meeting
Esquire Room
Town & Country Hotel, San Diego
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
11:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Presenter: Diana Deutsch, University of California, San Diego
(858-453-1558, [email protected])
Absolute pitch, popularly known as "perfect pitch," is the ability to name or produce a musical note of particular pitch without first hearing a reference note. It is extremely rare in the U.S. and Europe, with an estimated prevalence of less than one in 10,000. This rarity has so far been unexplained. Deutsch will report on the first large-scale study comparing the prevalence of absolute pitch in two normal populations--one in China and one in the US--by means of a direct test. Strikingly, Deutsch and her colleagues have found that perfect pitch is more common in students who speak the "tone language" Mandarin, in which the tones of words carry specific meanings. The findings suggest that the potential for acquiring absolute pitch may be universal at birth. It raises the possibility that parents--no matter what their language--may be able to take steps to encourage the development of absolute pitch in their children during the "critical period" when infants are learning the main features of their native language. The new work is a followup to a 1999 study on perfect pitch in language, in which Deutsch and her colleagues found that speakers of Mandarin and Vietnamese can produce the pitches of their tone languages with very high accuracy. (Meeting Paper 3pMUb3)

  • Meeting abstract at
  • Lay language paper at
  • UC-San Diego news release on this paper available from Inga Kiderra, University of California, San Diego ([email protected])
  • Meeting abstract at

    Presenter: Jonathan Kaufman, CyberLogic, Inc., New York (212-260-1351, [email protected]). Jonathan Kaufman will present a portable ultrasound device for noninvasive assessment of bone for such diseases as osteoporosis. In a clinical study of 60 women ranging in age from 25-88, the device used ultrasound to measure bone mass in the women's heels. The researchers hope the low-cost, handheld device could be used by primary care physicians globally, including in the developing world, to routinely test the bone health of patients. Called QRT 2000, the device is currently undergoing FDA evaluation, and Kaufman expects FDA approval within a year. (Paper 1pBB11)

  • Meeting abstract at
  • More information at

    Presenter: Lawrence Crum, University of Washington (206-685-8622, [email protected])
    Last year in the journal Nature, researchers suggested that some version of decompression sickness might be causing the beachings of marine mammals near Navy exercises. Meanwhile, a recent study in the Journal of Theoretical Biology shows that marine mammals might commonly carry "supersaturated" levels of nitrogen, in which a higher-than-normal amount of nitrogen gas is dissolved in their bodies. Crum and his colleagues have performed a series of experiments that suggest even modest levels of underwater sound could trigger bubble formation in a liquid of supersaturated nitrogen. The supersaturation levels can result in very large nitrogen bubbles, which can have potentially deleterious biological effects. Crum will present preliminary results of these experiments in efforts to better understand--and prevent--the beachings. (Paper 2pAB8)

  • Lay language paper at
  • Meeting abstract at

    Presenter: Aniruddh D. Patel, the Neurosciences Institute, La Jolla, California (858-626-2085, [email protected])
    Researchers at the Neurosciences Institute ( have performed quantitative analysis of rhythm and melody patterns (speech "prosody") in spoken French and English, and compared them to the melody and rhythm patterns in the instrumental classical music of each nation. They have found evidence that English and French classical music reflects the prosody of each nation's respective language. Patel and colleagues studied English composers such as Elgar, Holst, and Vaughan Williams. They studied numerous French composers such as Debussy, Faurť, Ravel, and Saint-SaŽns. (Paper 5aSC13)

  • Lay language paper at
  • Meeting abstract at



    Testing Infant Dolphin Hearing
    By Paul Nachtigall et al., University of Hawaii, Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology

    Engines for a "Silent" Aircraft
    By Cesare Hall, Cambridge University, et al.

    Synthesis of Human-Like Laughter:
    Toward Machine Synthesis of Human Speech
    by Shiva Sundaram et al, UCLA

    The Sweet Spot of a Hollow Baseball or Softball Bat
    by Dan Russell, Kettering College

    6+ Years of Acoustic Thermometry in the North Pacific Ocean
    by Brian DuShaw, University of Washington, et al.

    Sound, As We See It: A Better Way to Diagnose Noise Sources
    By Ravinder Beniwal, SenSound, et al.

    Simulating Synchronized Calling with a Wireless Sensor Network
    By Kenneth D. Frampton et al., Vanderbilt University

    Whispering Songs
    by Michael Kiefte, Dalhousie University

    GENERAL PRESS RELEASE (contains many other story ideas)

    If you're attending the press luncheon only, no meeting badge is necessary--simply return an RSVP form (found below) if you haven't previously done so. If you'd like to attend the rest of the meeting, you can get a complimentary meeting badge by going to the ASA registration area in the Town & Country Hotel. Please show press credentials or other form of ID to indicate that you are a member of the news media or a science writing student. At the registration desk, you will fill out a short form to obtain your badge.

    148th ASA Meeting, San Diego, CA
    November 15-19, 2004
    Please return this form (if you have not already done so) to Ben Stein at [email protected]
    ___Please sign me up for the ASA Press Luncheon on November 16 in San Diego.
    ___Please sign me up for the meeting.
    ___Please send me the book of abstracts for the meeting.
    ___Please put me on a mailing list to receive information on future ASA meetings.


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    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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