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Music and the Making of Modern Science$
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Peter Pesic

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780262027274

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262027274.001.0001

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Unheard Harmonies

Unheard Harmonies

(p.271) 18 Unheard Harmonies
Music and the Making of Modern Science

Peter Pesic

The MIT Press

Among early twentieth-century physicists, many considered their musical experiences formative of their relation to science. Albert Einstein’s famous devoted to music seems linked to his scientific work mainly through a general quest for harmony. Werner Heisenberg was a skilled musician who embraced a Platonic search for cosmic order after a revelatory performance of Bach. Even the unmusical Erwin Schrödinger found himself relying on musical analogies (as well as color theory) when he formulated his wave mechanics. The development of string theory reengages the mathematics of vibration, though the reality of the “strings” rests on analogy built on analogy, as shown in the progression Yoichiro Nambu described in his early work on this theory. Indeed, the concept of resonance remains important throughout physics, such as high-energy experiments. The Pythagorean theme of harmony remains potent in contemporary physics, though its harmonies are more and more unhearable and embedded in mathematical formalism. Throughout the book where various sound examples are referenced, please see http://mitpress.mit.edu/musicandmodernscience (please note that the sound examples should be viewed in Chrome or Safari Web browsers).

Keywords:   Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, Plato, Cosmic harmony, J. S. Bach, Erwin Schrödinger, Pythagorean harmony, Resonance, String theory, Yoichiro Nambu

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