Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Good Vibrations

I was reading an article in a psychedelic rock book about Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys (some would argue he WAS the Beach Boys) when my mind took a tangent and I ended up thinking about vibrations (good ones that is). A YouTube video about metronomes that I saw a while back popped into my mind as a result of this:


Here’s the explanation of how this all works as given with the YouTube posting:

metronomes (or "pendula") when on table, oscillate with random phases, since that is how they started and they are "uncoupled" (no energy/information flows from one to other so they do not "know" each other.) When they are all together on the cans, notice that the cans themselves oscillate little, providing coupling/information crossover. which forces "synchronization" in periodic systems (discovered by Huygens in 17th century).

If your kids or you have access to a music department, maybe this is something fun for you all to try out. Why not get your kids and yourself into a little home experimentation – that doesn’t have to mean drugs man!!

It seems Music and Physics have a history of going hand in hand. I discovered this article asking why good physicists make good musicians on the University of Cornell website.

The article doesn’t come to any groundbreaking conclusions (or to any discernable conclusion at all for that matter), but I like the initial sentence “Albert Einstein played the violin. Werner Heisenberg was a distinguished pianist. Richard Feynman played ... well, the bongos” being followed by “good physicists are very often good musicians” two paragraphs down. Einstein, Heisenberg and Feynman are “good physicists”? What next? Mozart, Bach and Beethoven as “decent composers”?

As a further example of a physicist showing some serious musical talent I remember that when I was studying physics at Imperial College in London a friend on my course won the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition and gave a lovely performance of Saint-SaensIntroduction et Rondo capriccioso’ on her violin, one of my favourite classic pieces. She couldn’t choose between Physics or Music though she eventually went on to study more Physics.

Our understanding and research into physics has also played a very important role in distributing music over the years. I found an interesting article on the BBC website about the oldest known recordings of computer generated music. The songs were a scratchy recording of Baa Baa Black Sheep and a truncated version of In The Mood.

"The songs were captured by the BBC in the Autumn of 1951 during a visit to the University of Manchester.
The recording has been unveiled as part of the 60th Anniversary of "Baby", the forerunner of all modern computers.
As far as I know it's the earliest recording of a computer playing music in the world, probably by quite a wide margin."

Commented Paul Doornbusch, a computer music composer and historian at the New Zealand School of Music.

Nowadays, of course, computers and networks pump music around the world and user generated content on sites like MySpace, Facebook and MOG. Blogs, music sites and online magazines are the starting points and favoured promotion points for thousands of bands uploading new recordings every day. It makes you stop and think about the rate of technological progress and how it changes every aspect of our life, doesn’t it?

Before I go off on too many tangents, I would like you to watch this video of physicist Richard Feynman playing the bongos. This might be all the proof you need to counter my argument about musicians and physics! Points for enthusiasm though. And somebody give that man an orange juice!

Richard Feynman Plays The Bongos

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