FS 9: The Science of Music -- Fall 2018


Course Description (Click it.)

6 units (2-0-4) P/F

Fall 2018
Instructor: David Politzer
office: 416 Downs
e-mail: politzer at theory.caltech
Caltech phone: 395-4252


Wednesday, December 5, 9:00 to 10:00 am. We'll meet at the Ath, outside at the end of the Olive Walk. Optional project show-and-tell; bring anythimng you'd like to show.

Project Reports:

Your report (and whatever) on your term project is DUE on or before 2:00pm, Friday, 12/7. (E-mail is good -- or my 4th floor Lauritsen-Downs mailbox.) There should be a written report. The detailed nature depends on the nature of what you did. In any case, I would like you to describe your goals, procedures, product, and conclusions. What did you set out to do? What did you do? What did you learn? What would you do differently had you known better? What would you do if you had more time? Photos or sound recordings might be appropriate to include, or you might have tables and graphs.

You can bring anything completed to breakfast on Wednesday, 12/5. We can do show-and-tell, but the actual report deadline remains as announced: Friday, 2pm, 12/7.

Here is a list and description of some sound analysis freeware. Spectroid (linked here) is my latest addition to the list, a free app that gives a nice real-time spectrum of the sound coming in to your device.

There are zillions of "educational" sound-related pages on the Web, with demos, simulations, explanations, and derivations. Many of the ones I list explicitly are part of someone's much larger effort to present some science. So, if you use your browser to go back up their tree, you will likely come to a directory or a page with lots of related links.

Here are a few, in random order:

Visualizing molecule motion of sound in air -- a cartooney animation

whyyouhearwhatyouhear.com is a maintained and updated Web site that goes with the book of the same name (on our SF Library reserve shelf). It's got great demos, resource links, and explanations.

At the University of New South Wales (Australia), they have a serious physics of music program with lots of stuff on-line. (Here is another portal to their site.)

An energetic science teacher worked up a course and put it into book form: The Physics of Music and Musical Instruments. Very readable and accessible and at an elementary level and only about 100 pages total, it might serve as a good reference for things mentioned in class.

A particle physics experimentalist has taught a sophisticated physics of music course at the University of Indiana. Its Web site from a couple of years ago (still posted [are there up-dates?]) has a lot of interesting stuff. Scroll down and click on "Teaching" and/or P105 - Basic Physics of Sound. (We should talk sometime about cochlear implants.)

A group at the University of Colorado produces wonderful interactive physics simulations. This is the one on waves on a string.

Hyperphysics, produced at Georgia State University, has a "Sound and Hearing" section with useful materials.

I can't figure out who Paul Falstad is, but he puts great physics applets on-line.

These days, Wolfram Enterprises is the home of much more than Mathematica. Three demonstrations on demonstrations.wolfram.com recently caught my eye: locating the hammer on a piano wire; string vibrations; and vibrations of simple systems. These demos are best with a free downloadable player. (Also note that Caltech has a Mathematica site license -- as well as lots of other stuff you can get for free from IMSS.)