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>Physics-minded types know this as Snell's Law: the angle of reflection equals the angle of incidence, whether we're talking >about light or sound waves traveling in rays that reflect off of surfaces.

I know that as "momentum conservation"; Snell's Law is the closely related law that describes how varying indices of refraction affect propagation through an interface.

>Savall is making classical music cool.

Maybe but I vote for Ethel,

The 2.25 second number is fascinating. Wonder what that says about the acoustic processing part of the brain?

"I know that as "momentum conservation"; Snell's Law is the closely related law that describes how varying indices of refraction affect propagation through an interface."

I'm glad Alison said that, because I thought for a moment that I'd slipped sideways into a parallel universe. Again.

That'll teach me to be more carefully discriminating in my sources. :) It's also the great thing about blogging -- these errors come to light so much more quckly. Things have been duly corrected. Thanks!!

All too true. I've seen quite a few live performances where the audience was not even aware how horrible the sound was (esp. when it matters more to be seen *out*).

Re: classical music. I don't think it's the lack of 'freshness' that turns the younger audiences away. You almost have to grow up listening (almost exclusively) to classical music to appreciate it in your youth to the extent the older afficionados think possible. I grew up listening to a lot of pop & hard rock, and even though I am possibly the person most into classical music among my friends, I sometimes have to *try* to like it. The format is too different. It requires a good setup to hear the low passages and quite a bit of dedication to sit through a symphony. And it's always hit and miss: there are some famous composers that I just can't stand.

The number of songs (and genres) that are out there increases every day and so does the ipod capacity. It's going to be more and more difficult for classical music to compete for that space.

PS: There's also a typo in the sentence that starts with auralization software.

According to the NY Times, reports of classical music's death have been greatly exaggerated:

Seems like the model of dissemination is changing, which is pretty much happening to every genre, I guess....

Nobody will be listening to Best Said Fred 200 years from now. Baroque, classical, and romantic style compositions will last an eternity.

Thank you for helping to bring the value of good sound forward into the spotlight. For some reason, sound usually takes the back seat in most any performance. I don't mean the making of sound takes a backseat. We have lots of talented sound sources. I do mean the handling of sound once it is made, as you have noted.

1) A word I didn't see in your work is "intelligibility" It speakes for itself in meaning. It is one of the most obvious acoustical requirements to be met in performance spaces and yet, it is one of the least discussed.

2) There is a huge difference between sound and light. Wavelength. For sound it's between 1" and 50 feet. For light, well, it's pretty small. Light (very small wavelengths goes pretty much in a straight line. Sound (relatively huge wavelengths) expands and bends.

Try this. You and Sean go out at night. Find a well lit corner of a building. A glass corner would be even more fun. Then you two stand against the wall, a couple feet back, either side of the corner. You no longer are in a direct line of sight of each other. Still, you can talk clearly with each other, around the corner.

Sound goes around objects, light does not. Computer modeling of sound only does "ray tracing" which does not include the very important mechanism of diffusion, the spreading of sound.

Arthur Noxon, Acoustical Engineer

Today--March 24--is the 2nd annual Ada Lovelace "Blog About Women in Science & Technology" Day!
(via )

So I just blogged a little tribute to two entities:
1. the woman professor whose "physics for idiots" class I took in college
2. this happiness-inducing blog (and that's even without drinking the cocktails on the sidebar!)

I'm sorry to hear life is being personally hard for some of you wonderful CPP bloggers,
but I want to express gratitude to you all.

You are a collective antidote to all those [otherwise wonderful] 1950s sci-fi movies I watched at midnight throughout my childhood in which an alien appears and ALWAYS the wobbly-shoed woman turned to the tweed-jacketed man and asks,
"What is it?"
I always wanted to scream, How the f*** should he know! Figure it out yourself!
And so you have.
Thanks you.

There are ways to improve acoustics in a setting like that without carpeting the walls. Hanging tapestries works quite well, and can work with the aesthetics.

The number of songs (and genres) that are out there increases every day and so does the ipod capacity. It's going to be more and more difficult for classical music to compete for that space.

As a recently retired architectural acoustician I found your blog on acoustics quite accurate and right on. As my degree was in architecture, I've always understood what impediments are put in architect's minds regarding achieving acoustics. Everything is about visual form and design. Despite the admonition by Vitruvius, during the time of Rome, that architecture should provide "firmness, commodity and delight" (in today's terms, structural strength and safety, usefulness for the occupants and users, and esthetic pleasure), most architects are taught to focus on the last one, and then primarily in visual terms. They are taught to visualize their designs in their mind's eye, but they never listen to their designs in their mind's ear.

My epiphany in our little half-semester introduction to this formidable subject in architecture school was that acoustical criteria and correct functioning could be used as "form-givers" which determine the shaping and furnishing and proportions of a space every bit as much as Euclidean geometry, the Golden Rectangle, Palladian motifs,understanding of historical structures and all the other stuff. Not only that, in terms of the usefulness of a space, a lot more people will complain or abandon work and living spaces that are too noisy, too reverberant, afford insufficient privacy or prevent concentration on tasks than will ever leave because they aren't handsome or beautiful in some esthetic way. It is a bitter pill for architects and interior architects to swallow, that people might consider the impact noise of someone walking around upstairs to be more important than the orchestrated flow of space and framing of vistas in their own apartment.

Music and its acoustics were not systematically studied in detail until the mid-20th century, allowing architects to move away from the traditional temple and gothic forms. Unfortunately, most did so with no understanding of acoustical consequences, and this remains a problem today. Religious forms constitute a sort of design 'baggage' which can be difficult to overcome for the acoustician, as the architect and the minister need the house of worship to "look like" something that they and the congregation will recognize as such. Once the architect encloses space, she commits acoustics. -Whether she has any consciousness of that fact or not!

Another difficulty is reconciling the requirements of pleasurable listening to music with clarity and intelligibility of human speech, in any flexible, mixed-use venue. What improves the one, up to a point, usually degrades the other. This is a tough compromise to make. If an instrument like an organ is to be reconciled with clear speech communication, one is lucky not to make everybody unhappy.

There are both architectural and electronic signal-processing approaches to this conundrum, of course.

Thanks for bringing this absorbing subject up and giving it a wider ear!

J Johnson
Olympia WA

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    Physics Cocktails

    • Heavy G
      The perfect pick-me-up when gravity gets you down.
      2 oz Tequila
      2 oz Triple sec
      2 oz Rose's sweetened lime juice
      7-Up or Sprite
      Mix tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a shaker and pour into a margarita glass. (Salted rim and ice are optional.) Top off with 7-Up/Sprite and let the weight of the world lift off your shoulders.
    • Listening to the Drums of Feynman
      The perfect nightcap after a long day struggling with QED equations.
      1 oz dark rum
      1/2 oz light rum
      1 oz Tia Maria
      2 oz light cream
      Crushed ice
      1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
      In a shaker half-filled with ice, combine the dark and light rum, Tia Maria, and cream. Shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass almost filled with crushed ice. Dust with the nutmeg, and serve. Bongos optional.
    • Combustible Edison
      Electrify your friends with amazing pyrotechnics!
      2 oz brandy
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz fresh lemon juice
      Combine Campari and lemon juice in shaker filled with cracked ice. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Heat brandy in chafing dish, then ignite and pour into glass. Cocktail Go BOOM! Plus, Fire = Pretty!
    • Hiroshima Bomber
      Dr. Strangelove's drink of choice.
      3/4 Triple sec
      1/4 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
      2-3 drops Grenadine
      Fill shot glass 3/4 with Triple Sec. Layer Bailey's on top. Drop Grenadine in center of shot; it should billow up like a mushroom cloud. Remember to "duck and cover."
    • Mad Scientist
      Any mad scientist will tell you that flames make drinking more fun. What good is science if no one gets hurt?
      1 oz Midori melon liqueur
      1-1/2 oz sour mix
      1 splash soda water
      151 proof rum
      Mix melon liqueur, sour mix and soda water with ice in shaker. Shake and strain into martini glass. Top with rum and ignite. Try to take over the world.
    • Laser Beam
      Warning: may result in amplified stimulated emission.
      1 oz Southern Comfort
      1/2 oz Amaretto
      1/2 oz sloe gin
      1/2 oz vodka
      1/2 oz Triple sec
      7 oz orange juice
      Combine all liquor in a full glass of ice. Shake well. Garnish with orange and cherry. Serve to attractive target of choice.
    • Quantum Theory
      Guaranteed to collapse your wave function:
      3/4 oz Rum
      1/2 oz Strega
      1/4 oz Grand Marnier
      2 oz Pineapple juice
      Fill with Sweet and sour
      Pour rum, strega and Grand Marnier into a collins glass. Add pineapple and fill with sweet and sour. Sip until all the day's super-positioned states disappear.
    • The Black Hole
      So called because after one of these, you have already passed the event horizon of inebriation.
      1 oz. Kahlua
      1 oz. vodka
      .5 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec
      .5 oz. dark rum
      .5 oz. Amaretto
      Pour into an old-fashioned glass over (scant) ice. Stir gently. Watch time slow.