Music At The Subatomic Level
Article By Gigi Krop
It is a warm, balmy evening in Miami and I'm having dinner at my friend Carol's,
House. Carol is a graduate of MIT with a degree in higher math. I am a graduate of the University of Miami and need a calculator to balance my checkbook. We drink wine and pick at our grilled salmon.
Carol asks, "You want to hear a new CD I bought today?"
"Sure", I respond.
We grab our wine glasses, abandon our half-eaten dinner and head for her listening room. "Remember the last group we heard at the reggae festival last week?"
"How can I forget, we stood around for six hours in the pouring rain waiting for the Mighty Sparrow. Finally, at midnight Third World took the stage and we forgot all about the rain and our achy feet. The music ended and the roadies were breaking down the equipment but you were still looking for the Mighty Sparrow."
Carol replied, "Yeah and the Mighty Sparrow never showed up. I found out later that the whole thing was just a publicity stunt to promote the concert. The Mighty Sparrow was in Montreal, Quebec. I bought the Third World CD.
Do you want to hear it?"
"Sure, I respond."
Carol continues, "I was listening to the radio in the middle of the night and heard some great music on my favorite reggae station. The music was so uplifting that I called the DJ, found out the name of the group, and bought it the next day. Which CD do you want to hear first?"
"It doesn't matter."
She puts the Third World CD on her Nakamichi Soundspace system. The reggae beat gets my head bobbin', my foot
tappin' and before I know it, I'm dancing around her sound room. Her two black labs jump up and start to dance with me.
"Well, the dogs and I love it. The music is so happy; it melts away the stress and makes me feel great!
"It's time for dessert", says Carol. "I have something special for you."
We depart the listening room and walk back into the kitchen. A book on the hallway table grabs my attention; it's called
The Hole in the Universe.
"What's this book about?"
She responds, "It's about the new physics, Quantum and Superstring Theory."
"Can I borrow it?"
"Yes, I've finished reading it. Now I'm reading The Elegant Universe.
I respond, "Oh, I read that one already. I'm fascinated by the New Physics, I have a theory about music and Quantum Theory and want to write about it."
Carol, "OK, you write the Theory and I'll write an equation to prove it!"
"It's a deal!"
Well Carol is too busy moving to San Diego to write equations, but here are my ideas on music and Superstring Theory.
Did you ever notice that music is a part of every aspect of our life? When you sit behind the steering wheel of your auto, does it vibrate from the rhythm of Rap and the bass of the bazooka? Or, like myself, do you listen to the calming strains of the Moody Blues, to relax away the heavy traffic blues. James Taylor wrote a song called, "Traffic Jam". Even mellow JT gets frustrated on backed up highways; guess he has a case of what my Uncle George calls "too much rubber and not enough cement." When you step aboard an airplane they give you headphones for the prerecorded music to soothe away air traffic delays and travel jitters.
At the beach, do you listen to the sound of the surf, the breeze and the birds or do you bring your portable CD player for your listening pleasure? Go for a jog along a country road; don't forget your cassette or radio. Turn on your computer at work and download music from the World Wide Web or play a CD. Go to the dentist and he gives you headphones and a music list; take an elevator ride from the lobby up to your office and listen to "background music." Publix and K-Mart play music for your shopping pleasure. In our homes we listen to stereo systems, intercoms, radios, surround sound systems and outside speakers. At home, at work, at play or in transit we are always surrounded by music.
Why is music so important to us?
A Little History
I believe that the answer can be found in the New Physics; Quantum and Superstring Theory.
In the last century scientists have made some amazing discoveries. First there was Newton's Theory of Motion and Gravity, "an object in motion tends to stay in motion". Then Einstein's famous Theory of Relativity combined time and space to give us a new view of the universe. In 1932 Carl Anderson's research led to his theory about magnetic fields: He envisioned a new kind of particle that also existed in the magnetic field. It has the same mass as an electron, but curves in the opposite way and the positron was born. Dirac's refinements in this theory predicted that every particle has a mirror image or antiparticle. Thus emerged the existence of antiprotons, antineutrons and
anti-electrons (positrons). Dirac and Anderson both received Nobel Prizes for their new ideas. Schrodinger discovered that in Quantum Mechanics these particles of matter are subatomic tiny and move in unpredictable patterns and in spurts of activity that exceed the speed of light. Quantum Field Theory describes a world where solid matter dissolves away, to be replaced by a seething world of particle activity. Out of these exciting theories emerged a new idea called Superstring Theory that unites time, space and matter to create vibrating submicroscopic loops of strings that inhabit an imaginary eleven-dimensional universe, which consists of ten dimensions plus time.
Scientists use the violin as a model to explain the properties of the
microworld; The Quantum Theory of Matter and the new Superstring Theory . Each string of the violin can undergo an infinite variety of different vibrational patterns known as resonances. The wave patterns are evenly spaced, the peaks and troughs fit perfectly between the string's two fixed endpoints. (These are the same sound waves we see in graphs when we measure the sensitivity of our sound equipment.) Our ears sense these different vibrational patterns as musical notes. The strings in Superstring Theory have similar properties, Just as the different vibrational patterns of a violin string result in musical notes, the different vibrational patterns of a fundamental string in Superstring Theory give rise to different masses and force changes. The properties of an elementary particle of Quantum Physics are determined by the precise resonant pattern of vibration that the string creates.
Yes, the incredible world of modern science had done it again. We have cameras on space ships that take photos of Mars, cell phones that allow us to call home from anywhere in the world (Just like in Spielberg's movie, ET) computers that communicate via high speed connections, high-definition television and refrigerators that order their own food. And now we have a Quantum Theory of matter that explains the origin of sound vibrations and resonance.
Listen carefully people because music begins at the subatomic level!
In Superstring Theory the physicists believe that every particle of matter is actually a vibrating string or loop. Physicists say that the universe is made of vibrating particles of matter, they are the essence of life and all we see; the ground we walk on, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the moon sun stars and even our stereo systems.
It appears that the universe is one giant vibrating stereo system.
The theorists believe that the physical realm is made of tiny strings whose vibrational patterns orchestrate the evolution of the cosmos. Just like the strings of the violin, they have different tensions and vibrate at varying speeds. These tiny vibrations create musical notes. We can't hear them with our ears, but perhaps we hear them with our consciousness.
The silence of outer space has been broken. These tiny vibrating strings influence our consciousness in subtle ways and pervade every aspect of our physical world. They explain nature and our own nature.
The history of music dates back to the beginning of humanity. It is an intrinsic part of our physical reality. Music is a part of our conscious and unconscious minds. The vibration of the strings of a solo violin brings a tear to our eye. Various songs bring back memories of our youth and thoughts of loved ones.
Music calms our over-stressed minds and soothes our tense bodies. It vibrates at the subatomic level of our consciousness; it is part of our body and soul; that is why we cannot live without it. We love music.
1. The Matter Myth, Paul Davies and John Gribbin, A Touchstone Book published by Simon & Schuster, New York 1992
2. The Hole in the Universe, K.C. Cole, Harcourt, Inc., New York 2001
3. The Elegant Universe, Brian Greene, Vintage Books A Division of Random House, Inc., New York, 1999 p.135-165