This Week in Research: Vinyl NOT Better Than CDs?; Immigration Good for MD

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Anyone who’s ever known (or, worse, dated) a music snob knows the old refrain:  music on vinyl just sounds more authentic. Let them rhapsodize on and it’ll start to sound as though you’re discussing fine wine — LPs have a sound that’s rich, deep, velvety, full. But hold on a second. Scott Metcalfe is someone who should know — he’s the director of recording arts and sciences at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins. And he says he “definitely” prefers CDs. It turns out that the physical limitations of vinyl — its grooves and pre-set disc size — mean that dynamic range often gets reduced. CDs are, simply put, a more useful technology for capturing a wide range of sounds and frequencies. But what about vinyl’s much-vaunted “depth”? Metcalfe has an answer to that:  “In some cases, the depth of field, the depth of sound that people talk about, enjoying about vinyl that they say is missing from the CD may, in fact, be a result of the compression to make that old recording more competitive for the modern market.” And CDs trump even MP3s, Metcalfe says — “there’s a loss of depth of field in a smaller format… Occasionally, I’ll hear somebody playing, you know, through a PA system at a party or, you know, a reception or something from an MP3, and it’s almost painful for me to listen to” However, Metcalfe does grant that old-fashioned records do allow for a more ritualistic listening experience.

Meanwhile, over at the University of Maryland researchers have found that the state’s immigrant population makes a substantial contribution to our economy, especially in the science, information, and medical fields. (Twenty-seven percent of the state’s scientists are foreign-born!) Which is good news, as more than half of the growth in the state’s workforce was due to foreign-born workers. (The national average was 45 percent; in Maryland, it was a full 57 percent.) Nearly 14 percent of the state’s population is foreign-born, which is slightly less than Texas, but more than Arizona and Virginia, and about one-third of those live in or around Baltimore. According to the study, immigrants tend to be clustered either in high-income groups or low-income groups, which is one reason they’re a boon to the economy — they complement the pre-existing labor force. The relatively unskilled immigrant labor force, which is concentrated in the agriculture, seafood, construction, personal services, and tourism industries, also helps out:  “Without the influx of foreign-born workers, expansion in these labor-intensive industries would have been choked off, increasing prices and discouraging growth across the economy,” the report says. In all, the study’s authors urge lawmakers to think twice about leaving immigrants and their children out of education and state services plans: “Most of foreign-born young people in Maryland, regardless of [legal] status, will make up a substantial part of the productive, tax-paying work force in a few short years. We will also depend on them to be informed voters and capable leaders so we can maintain strong and dynamic communities throughout the state of Maryland.”



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