Music for Oscilloscopes

First, a story:

Many moons ago, before laser pointers were things you could get at your local convenience store for the cost of a few packs of gum, back when lasers were expensive and cool, my friend got a laser. I’m pretty sure it was discarded by some lab. It was a tube about 5 cm in diameter and about 30 cm long and had a large brick-sized power supply. It was fun to play with, but ultimately it’s just a laser making a red dot on the wall. So Phil, for that was my friend’s name, took a speaker from his stereo, and taped a small mirror to the cone. Then, with the lights out, aimed the laser at the mirror and played music. Suddenly, the music came alive on the ceiling where the laser was being reflected. We called it Philsarium, after Laserium, which had been shown in the 1970s at planetariums.

That’s it for the story. Not much of a moral, I admit, but it was more of a trip down memory-lane. Anyway, the reason I bring it up is this week I saw a certain Smarter Every Day video. This video immediately brought that experience back to mind, except this time the laser is replaced by an oscilloscope. Oh, and instead of using regular music, awesome people in Austria craft music specifically to show different things on the oscilloscope. What normally shows sine waves or square waves (or RS-232 signals that Phil and I had to reverse engineer at one point) now shows everything from Tetris blocks to Tyrannosaurus Rexes.

Like Phil’s laser, the oscilloscope also shows a dot. Normally it shows various waveforms for analysis, but really it just shows voltage visually. By splitting the music’s stereo signal into 2 lines (one for the left speaker, the other for the right) and connecting these 2 voltages to the oscilloscope’s two inputs, the oscilloscope’s dot can be moved around the screen based on what the music does. One input (say the left audio channel) controls the horizontal, and the other input controls the vertical, moving the dot around the screen. By adjusting the voltage for the two channels carefully, you can turn the oscilloscope into an Etch-a-Sketch. And by having the sound change the drawing changes, and you can move and change the image. OK, it may be a long way to go for what is today considered mere music visualization, but doing it on a ‘scope is brilliant.

Those wacky Austrians have made albums of music based on this. The music is constrained by it’s primary audience, the oscilloscope, so it sounds somewhat like raw old school synthesizer music.

There’s a lot of trigonometry involved in this, so the next time a student asks a math teacher “when will we use this”, the answer may be “when you form a band.”

Bohemian Gravity

Timothy Blaise recently wrote his master’s thesis on string theory, and then did a super video of him explaining it while singing a cappella to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. This is so full of win.

Here are they lyrics:

Is string theory right?
Is it just fantasy?
Caught in the landscape,
Out of touch with reality
On S5 or T*S3

Space is a pure void
Why should it be stringy? 
Because it’s quantum not classical
Any way you quantize
You’ll encounter infinity
You see

Must interact
Via paths we understand
Using Feynman diagrams
Often, they will just rebound
But now and then they go another way
A quantum
Infinities will make you cry
Unless you can renormalize your model
Of baryons, fermions
And all other states of matter

Curved space:
The graviton
Can be thought of as a field
But these infinities are real
In a many-body
Loop diagram
Our results diverge no matter what we do…
A Quantum Soup (any way you quantize)
Kiss your fields goodbye
Guess Einstein’s theory wasn’t complete at all!

I see extended 1-D objects with no mass
What’s their use? What’s their use? Can they give us quark plasma?
What to minimize?
What functional describes this
Nambu-Goto! (Nambu-Goto)
Nambu-Goto! (Nambu-Goto)
How to quantize I don’t know
I’m just a worldsheet, please minimize me
He’s just a worldsheet from a string theory
Reperametrized by a Weyl symmetry!

Fermi, Bose, open, closed, orientable?
Modes! They become particles (particles!)
They become particles (particles!)
They become particles (particles!)
Become particles (particles!)
Become particles (many many many many particle…)
Modes modes modes modes modes modes modes!
Oh mamma mia mamma mia,
Such a sea of particles!
A tachyon, with a dilaton and gravity-vity-VITY

(rock out!)

Now we need ten dimensions and I’ll tell you why
(anomaly cancellation!)
So to get down to 4D we compactify!
Oh, Kahler!
(Kahler manifold)
Manifolds must be Kahler!
(Complex Reimannian symplectic form)
If we wanna preserve
Any of our super-symmetry

(Superstrings of type I, IIa and IIb)
(Heterotic O and Heterotic E)
(All are one through S and T duality)
(Thank you Ed Witten for that superstring revolution and your new M-theory!)

(Type IIB String!)
Dual! Dual!
(In the AdS/CFT)

Molecules and atoms
Light and energy
Time and space and matter
All from one united

Any way you quantize…

Lyrics and arrangement by Tim Blais and A Capella Science
Original music by Queen

And here’s a link to his master’s thesis.

Injured brain’s memories return with music

Researchers have tried playing music to people who have had brain injuries. These people were able to recall new things about their past after listening to the music. These weren’t Alzheimer’s patients. The researchers used top 100 music from each year of the lifetimes of the people. This music seemed to elicit memories of people, or places. They also played music for a control group, and got similar amounts of recollection. More research needs to be done, but it looks like a promising method of restoring the memories of people with brain injuries.