From bach to einstein and beyond or science music and human affairs
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From Bach to Einstein and Beyond or Science, Music and Human Affairs. Vladimir Chaloupka, Professor of Physics Adjunct Professor, School of Music Adjunct Professor, Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies University of Washington

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From Bach to Einstein and Beyond or Science, Music and Human Affairs

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From Bach to Einstein and BeyondorScience, Music and Human Affairs

Vladimir Chaloupka, Professor of Physics

Adjunct Professor, School of Music

Adjunct Professor, Henry M. Jackson School

of International Studies

University of Washington

Lecture Outline:

Physics of Music -> Physics and Music

Music and Science: From Pythagoras to GEB and Gravitational Symphony of the Universe

J.S.Bach as a “Learned Musician”:

BACH = 14 JSBACH = 41 2+3+9 = 14

Albert Einstein as Scientist, Musician

and Prophet

The Big Gap and the Basic Problem

What Is To Be Done

Examples of Research in Physics of Music

Non-linear coupling of organ pipes:

1000 Hz + 1001 Hz = 1002 Hz

Musical Acoustics

Fixing the excessive reverberation at the Saint Mark’s Cathedral

Experimental Psychophysics

or: How I earned my doctoral title

Consonance/diss. and tuning/temperament

“What is the Role of Imperfections in Creating the Perception of Perfection?”

First documented evidence for medication-induced shift of absolute pitch perception

(see the Acoustical Journal publication, on web page)

  • non-intrusive way of investigating human pitch perception

  • investigation of the phenomenon of categorical perception

  • Story of non-musical[sic] patient from Australia[sic]

  • “absolute pitch” is not “perfect pitch”

  • I used a “physicist’s approach”- consider the human head (ears / cochlea / brain) as a “frequency-measuring instrument”

  • Similar approach to perception of color: new !

  • How Well Tempered was Bach’s Clavier?

Dependence of the difference between stimulus and response frequency on time. Days 17-31 correspond to Carbamazepine, preceded and followed by placebo.

Two examples of absolute pitch perception

Correlation of stimulus and response for two different possessors of absolute pitch.

Note: in addition to help with Physics of Music, I also need interested TAs for PHYS207 in the Spring quarter …)

Music and Science: Goedel Escher Bach, and more

  • Pythagoras’ integers

  • Kepler’s Harmonia Mundi

  • Superstring Theory: all elementary particles as “modes of vibration” of the same string

    (ergo: “Princeton String quartet”)

  • Laser Interferometer Space Antenna: “listening to the gravitational Symphony of the Universe”

  • Music as an example of emergent complexity: parts of Art of Fugue “sound like parts of the Mandelbrot set”

Einstein as Scientist, Musician and Prophet

  • Einstein as scientist: In 2005 we celebrated the Centenary of Einstein’s Annus Mirabilis

  • Einstein as musician: from a review: “Einstein plays excellently. However, his world-wide fame is undeserved. There are many violinists who are just as good.”

  • Einstein as prophet: “Nuclear weapons changed everything except our way of thinking.”

The Basic Problem and the Big Gap

  • For the first time in human history, the capability of causing extreme harm is, or will soon be, in the hands of individuals or small groups. This is the 'Basic Problem'.  The actual manifestation of the problem will come as an intentional or accidental misuse of our new powers.

  • the Basic Problem is a reflection of the Big Gap: the ever-increasing gap between the cumulative, exponential progress in science and technology on the one hand, and on the other hand, the lack of comparable progress in our ability to use our new technological tools thoughtfully and responsibly.

Aristotle as a case study:

Physics: F = m times v

F = m times a


"of the above mentioned forms, the perversions are as follows:

of monarchy, tyranny;

of aristocracy, oligarchy;

of constitutional government, democracy."

Summary and Conclusion

  • 18th century remembered not for Frederick the Great, but for Johann Sebastian Bach

  • 20th century will be remembered not for Lenin or Hitler or …. , but for our invention of Quantum Mechanics

    and for deciphering of the human genome

  • Our task for the 21st century.

What Is To Be Done

  • See essay on website: education - risk assessment - preventative and defensive measures - reform of international law - coping with the aftermath

  • PHYS216 / SIS216: “Science and Society”

  • UW-wide required courses

  • World-wide collaboration of Sciences and Humanities

  • Jackson School degree along with Physics

  • Independent Study (PHYS 600/800; also MUS6xx or SIS6xx if anyone feels adventurous!)

  • Need TAs for Spring quarter

  • for Physics of Music (PHYS 207)

  • as well as for Science and Society (PHYS 216)

  • PHYS216 / SIS216:

  • Science and non-science students in the same class, as microcosm of society

  • Learning not just from Instructor but also from each other

  • Syllabus:

  • 0) Introduction

  • Nuclear physics: E=mc2

  • Molecular Biology: DNA

  • Discussions and Debates

  • J.S.Bach in Walker Ames

  • Grand Finale

  • Login