Skip to main content

How quantum physics democreatized music

Today was a wonder colloquium by Prof. Sir Michael Berry on the effect that science and research have on our day to day lives, on technology and on science as a whole.

He started talking about how CD players have democratized music and made it available to the millions. Sure, gramophone had been invented and the radio was also prevalent. But only with the advent of compact disc players did people get a portable device to listen to music. He then talked about lasers, without which there wouldn't be any CDs and digging deeper, quantum physics, without which we wouldn't have the theory of how lasers work. He talked about how Einstein couldn't have imagined that his theory explaining atomic transition using spontaneous absorption and spontaneous and stimulated emission could've led to the laser. And not just that, he gave many accounts of scientists who pursued research without worrying about applying them to *real world problems*, who would be surprised knowing how much their research into fundamental science has transformed the twentieth and twenty first centuries! Just looking at quantum physics, we can count lasers, mri and pet scans, transistors which account for the bulk of media, medicine and entertainment. Who could've imagined that almost all of us reap the benefits of general relativity, given that GPS devices wouldn't be as accurate as they are, if not for general relativistic corrections.

He gave many such examples, including how photography revolutionized digital media and the role chemists had in it. He then went on to talk about how such technological advancements eventually help scientists push the boundary further. He talked about quantum revival and how theorists like himself can work on understanding such esoteric area of physics with the advent of computer, which are made of transistors, which were developed with an intricate understanding of electronic band structures.

He then talked about how various fields of science and woven together intricately and that it's a scientist's job to understanding and make use of this interconnectedness. An interesting example was the question of why gold is golden in color. Given the electronic configuration of gold, theorists have computed the wavelength at which gold absorbs and gold reflects. And computations using quantum physics say that gold should silvery in color. Only when scientists took into account general relativity, since the electrons in the gold atom move at relativistic speeds, did they actually understand why.

TL;DR : He quoted Feynmann saying "Science is like sex : sometimes something useful comes out but that is not why we are doing it!"

Popular posts from this blog

Animation using GNUPlot

Animation using GNUPlotI've been trying to create an animation depicting a quasar spectrum moving across the 5 SDSS pass bands with respect to redshift. It is important to visualise what emission lines are moving in and out of bands to be able to understand the color-redshift plots and the changes in it.
I've tried doing this using the animate function in matplotlib, python but i wasn't able to make it work - meaning i worked on it for a couple of days and then i gave up, not having found solutions for my problems on the internet.
And then i came across this site, where the gunn-peterson trough and the lyman alpha forest have been depicted - in a beautiful manner. And this got me interested in using js and d3 to do the animations and make it dynamic - using sliders etc.
In the meanwhile, i thought i'd look up and see if there was a way to create animations in gnuplot and whoopdedoo, what do i find but nirvana!

In the image, you see 5 static curves and one dynam…

on MOOCs.

For those of you who don't know, MOOC stands for Massively Open Online Course.

The internet is an awesome thing. It's making education free for all. Well, mostly free. But it's surprising at the width and depth of courses being offered online. And it looks like they are also having an impact on students, especially those from universities that are not top ranked. Students in all parts of the world can now get a first class education experience, thanks to courses offered by Stanford, MIT, Caltech, etc.

I'm talking about MOOCs because one of my new year resolutions is to take online courses, atleast 2 per semester (6 months). And I've chosen the following two courses on edX - Analyzing Big Data with Microsoft R Server and Data Science Essentials for now. I looked at courses on Coursera but I couldn't find any which was worthy and free. There are a lot more MOOC providers out there but let's start here. And I feel like the two courses are relevant to where I …

On programmers.

I just watched this brilliant keynote today. It's a commentary on Programmers and the software development industry/ecosystem as a whole.



I am not going to give you a tl;dr version of the talk because it is a talk that I believe everyone should watch, that everyone should learn from. Instead, I am going to give my own parallel-ish views on programmers and programming.
As pointed out in the talk, there are mythical creatures in the software development industry who are revered as gods. Guido Van Rossum, the creator of Python, was given the title Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL). People flock around the creators of popular languages or libraries. They are god-like to most programmers and are treated like gods. By which, I mean to say, we assume they don't have flaws. That they are infallible. That they are perfect.
And alongside this belief in the infallibility of these Gods, we believe that they were born programmers. That programming is something that people are born wit…