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!"

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