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By Caoimhín Mires

In what has been described as a 'huge leap forward' in the study of traditional music, Dublin scientists are celebrating today after a year-long experiment has resulted in the positive identification of the elusive 'Nyah-Particle'.

Professor Sammy Sapphire, head of DCU’s Department of Applied Irish Traditional Music Particle Theory, explained how the discovery came about: “It all started at an all-day session at Willie Week last year when a few of us were discussing that elusive quality to Irish music that seems to be depleting exponentially... you know, ‘the nyah’. Well, I had the notion that, if we could find a medium through which to capture the music so as to be able to study it from a particle perspective, then we could identify the active nyah component.”

The answer came to Sapphire that night when he was raiding the fridge of the B&B he was staying in: “I opened the fridge and saw the jelly for the next day’s pudding setting. It’s then I knew I was on to something: if we could use setting jelly to capture nyah fluctuations in the music then we could measure it and study it scientifically. I put the idea down to a sudden flash of inspiration, and seventeen pints. There were also a few cans of Dutch Gold in the fridge, which I can’t discount as an operant factor in my making the discovery.”

On returning to Dublin, Sapphire set about playing Michael Coleman records to setting jellies with the result that his laboratory team was able to capture music-induced particle anomalies caused in the popular tasty deserts as they hardened. It wasn’t long before Sapphire felt he was close to isolating the nyah particle.

“There were unusual things happening in the molecular structure of the jelly due to its being introduced to Coleman’s arresting, plaintive style. It was just a matter then of isolating what was new to us and refining our results. It was still a big surprise when we finally saw the nyah particle under the microscope however. Nothing really prepares you for that moment. It looks sort of like a tiny wee beef burger from a Milltown chip van, but hairier”.

Several practical applications of the discovery are already being discussed among the scientific community. They include a deodorant spray that makes young people more attractive to the elderly, a nerve gas that inhibits fiddlers from theatrically swaying to the music and nyah flavoured jelly.


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