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Music and the rhythm of Gods
Sunday February 26, 2006 06:44 by SeŠn Ryan
The story continues.......
M theory, String theory, Relativity and Quantum Mechanics are discussed. Add some music and blend it all together. How to create nothing is examined and the infinite effort it would take.
Think of a length of string.
Depending on the length of the string and how tight the string is stretched, we will get a different note each time the string is struck or plucked. The shorter the string, the higher the note, and also the tighter the string, the higher the note, this of course is not the only way we can get the string to vibrate, oscillate or make sound.
I could strike the string and start running at you at high speed, but instead of crashing into you, I would just pass by you and continue running away from you at high speed. Coming at you, the pitch of the note would begin to rise as if I were tightening the string or making it shorter, as I run away from you the pitch decreases as if I were loosening the string or lengthening it, this is called the Doppler Effect. Think of an ambulance passing and the way the pitch of its siren changes. Pitch is all about the length of sound waves. As I run towards you the length of the sound waves are decreased because my momentum subtracts from the length of the sound waves and thus the note rises in pitch, as I run away from you my momentum adds to the length of these waves causing the pitch to go lower. We can add a sense of relativity to the picture if I run from you towards your friend. You will hear the pitch decrease but your friend will hear it rise. Think of ripples on a pond. I am in the centre of it and am drenched and you and your friend are at either end and dry I might add. If I begin to move towards your friend the ripples or waves that result from this movement will be closer together as they move towards your friend than will be the waves that move towards you.
I can cause the string to vibrate without having to touch it. If I have another string nearby and it is tuned to the same pitch when it is sounded it will cause my original string to vibrate too, this is called sympathetic resonance, guitarists call this feedback and achieve it by striking a note and sustaining it, the note goes through the amplifier and causes the string to continue to vibrate but at a higher volume and pitch some of the lower pitches getting cancelled out because of the higher energy, because of the amplifier, in other words the note increases in volume until someone's eardrums explode or until the guitarist damps the string.
Here is the interesting bit. When the string vibrates it is doing more than playing a single note. It is playing lots of notes. But sympathetic resonance and or changes in energy level tend to cancel or lessen their volume. Knowing this like any decent guitarist should allows me another way of varying pitch. Harmonics.
For instance if I strike our string and let it sound; if I then tap the string in the exact or nearly exact centre, the pitch of the string will go up an octave.
What has happened here, is that the string has behaved as if it were only half its actual length or has gotten tighter, the string seems to have tried to expand and shorten at the same time and I may add has succeeded admirably.
You see the string if you were to observe it when it vibrates it does so by sending waves up and down the string and sideways and all other ways for instance imagine this. The string is vibrating up and down, this in turn is vibrating sideways, also it's going round and round like a skipping rope. You could add as many dimensions to this as you wanted to and you could at no point guess as to the motion of the string, this is very similar to being a demonstration of the uncertainty principle at a non quantum level.
Now we see what happens when we touch the string, like getting caught in the skipping rope we cancel some of the rope's momentum but not all of it, at least not straight away. It is the bit of the rope still moving that is the harmonic of the full rope moving.
Depending where I strike the harmonic I get a different note. Rock guitarists regularly use this knowledge to strike what are termed artificial harmonics or pinched harmonics, by pinching the string with the side of the thumb whilst striking it with the pick.
These are the shrieking notes guitarists pull from nowhere and suddenly in the middle of some chunking riff.
If you listen to a single note carefully you can hear its colour. You can hear that it is the amalgamation of many tones or vibrations, all of them related to one and other and producing an over all colour.
Some people are so good at this they can tell what pitch a note is by recognising its colour. We say they have perfect pitch.
The rest of us have relative pitch, which means we can guess what the note is and get it right to within a certain degree of accuracy, some are better than others at this skill. (It is a pity colour hearing is not taught to us all at an early age).
Anyway when the note on the string sounds, it vibrates, resonates or oscillates. These vibrations set up vibrations in the air, and the air sets up vibrations in your eardrums, which convert the vibration into electrical and chemical signals in your brain, which in turn sends out a signal to your hand, to go into your pocket, and take money out of it, and go buy the string plucker's whole album, or it may go through your kid's ear and he or she in turn will resonate, and in turn sympathetically resonate you, and it's out with the money again.
Now, to complicate things further, we have harmony or as is the case for some, disharmony.
A double stop is two notes sounded together or one after the other and a chord is more.
They all have particle like qualities that are hard to explain but easy to hear or feel.
When they all sound good together is when we have harmony.
When we play sequences of harmonies or indeed single notes we get music. These sequences depending on the flavours can sympathetically resonate you into a different state of being.
They can be sad, happy, thoughtful, or just about any other flavour of emotion that one can experience.
Music is a drug.
It is both mood and mind altering. It can induce vivid hallucinations referred to as either remembering or dreaming. And some of it is highly addictive.
I may add I would like to keep this drug legal. I believe I have strong constitutional grounds on this one too.
The Irish have been getting wasted and inspired on this drug forever, it is one of our earliest traditions.
Before someone thinks I'm joking, I'm not.
Like I said earlier any substance that produces a physiological change in an organism is a drug. The only thing hard to prove here is that music is a substance and that is far from difficult.
It is either matter or energy. It could be both. It doesn't matter, because of relativity we know energy and matter are the same substance.
Anyway depending on whether you like a bit of speed, or prefer the opiates, all musically speaking of course, there's plenty to choose from.
Whether your cup of tea be the exquisite, and exquisitely talented Vanessa Mae, casually and seductively playing Bach, and making it all look and sound beautiful, flowing and easy, bypassing the need for her will like only a true fundamental property of the universe could, and just letting the music be.
Or maybe You need to turn the volume to infinity and have somebody scream at you through primal, angry and violent industrial metal, that he wants to fuck you like an animal, like only the incredible and inspired, and inspiring Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails could (scream I mean).
Some of us think we have found the best drug of all and want to share it with everyone; volume goes from infinity to beyond.
You know the moment you have gotten old when you say to a child, 'that's not real music, at least in my day the lyrics were in English and at a nice sensible volume'. A big bee bop a lula to that. The truth is, music is a party animal and when you got puckered out, it just partied on. If the music is too loud, you are too old. This is all well and fine unless some arsehole forces you to listen to it.
Everyone's music is personal.
There's something fundamental about that vibrating string.
There is an old Buddhist question that asks when a bell is rung, when does the sound cease and the silence begin? If entropy is understood and relativity too and both are correct then the sound will never cease, it will just continue to fade. From this idea thousands of years old, we can see that a string never ceases to vibrate, it's just that sometimes it's too low in volume to hear. If the string could at some point stop vibrating we would have a universal reference point and we would indeed need a musician to strike the first note.
We too could be summed up in the vibration of a string.
You interact with another person and form a harmony or a disharmony.
You meet your soul mate and beautiful and happy melody is begun.
You lose your soul mate and head into misery and sadness in a minor key, but this sadness and melancholia can be but a prelude to a triumphant and happy second part modulated into a major key and who knows where the jig will lead next?
The optimist and the pessimist are both listening to the same tune, either truly only supposes one part of the music to be superior to the other part of the music and being either is not to appreciate the bitter sweetness of the melody itself. As for the glass being half full or half empty? This is not even to make a choice but to not be thirsty enough to either have to think or to drink, and is just an exercise in trying to show the supposed superiority of one man's philosophy over another's. Optimists and pessimists, of the two I cannot tell who annoys me more. Try or do not try, why quantify it? Everybody understands regret, failure, success and victory. But I must admit that I find the eternal pessimist to be more interesting than the eternal optimist.
Music could describe our every action and our every thought, and in fact does in a way more fundamental fashion than we could ever put into words, this is why we love it so much, it is more descriptive of the soul of man than any mirror, I don't mean ethereal apparition when I say soul, but essence, music and art, are the soul of man, they are the seat of consciousness and they take orders from nobody and are the source of our divinity.
So if music could describe us then why not describe everything?
Can music describe stuff other than the soul of man?
Does a bear shit in the woods?
Music can describe anything that you can describe.
Music can describe anything from a beautiful sunset to the uncertainty of being.
Edward Witten working on the theory of Super Gravity combined with String theory which was first proposed and developed in the early 1980's proposed something that musicians and other artists have been telling us about, since the first drummers beat bones on their enemy's heads, he proposed Superstring or M theory. By the way I'm not slagging Edward Witten here either, what the musicians were saying was too diverse and seemingly self contradictory to be saying anything useful until Edward put it into a much clearer tone.
Edward Witten is a genius from the old school like Newton. Both mathematicians and physicists claim him as their own. He often pisses the mathematicians off however, because he often derives stuff with no proofs. He is seldom if ever proved wrong though. His powers of intuition are nothing short of astonishing.
A string is a tiny structure with a finite length, existing in six possible dimensions, the string either open or close looped, vibrating in and out of these dimensions with the ends of the string if not joined together, whipping around at the speed of light.
It was this vibration into other dimensions that gave us fundamental particles such as electrons in fact it could explain all the fundamental particles, relativity and quantum mechanics. Finally what looked like and what still looks to be a promising fundamental theory of everything.
And it finally quantified gravity.
Gravity and the other universal forces become the one entity at a high enough energy level. Basically this means that gravity, the weak nuclear force, the strong nuclear force and electromagnetic force were once all the same thing and only separated out as the universe cooled, think of the sound of the bell dying, as it quietens the tone begins to waver, some of the overtones or dominant harmonics separate out and become distinguishable separate entities.
There was a problem though, and it was like this. String theory had used a very special branch of mathematics to illustrate itself with.
Srinivasa Ramanujan was an Indian born mathematical genius. I can think of no other that would be in the same class as this guy short of guys like Witten. Anyway this guy derived, from a couple of simple books on maths, most of the mathematics that had been discovered to date, and more importantly he derived stuff we hadn't derived as of yet. Most important of all he derived stuff we still havn't figured out today.
Some of his stuff is used to illustrate string theory.
Basically speaking we have the solution to the problem of the theory itself but we unfortunately have little or no understanding of the problem itself.
Summing up, we have the answers but cannot see how they are derived.
This is a problem you see M theory allows for many types of universe including ours. We need to be able to follow the theory back to a particular universe, our universe in fact.
The special theory of special relativity proposes a universe of no less than four dimensions, three of them spatial and one temporal. In the spatial dimensions anything at rest is travelling at the speed of light in the temporal dimension. So basically everything in a four dimensional universe is travelling at the speed of light the whole time because this is as absolute as rest can get.
In this beautiful relative universe, moving in the spatial dimensions stops everything from happening at once and the faster the movement the more time slows down.
Imagine Einstein riding on a single photon of light from one end of the universe to another end. Einstein would perceive everything at once. We would perceive Einstein to be moving at the speed of light and we would, if we could develop a powerful enough telescope, perceive him forever, this is if you are behind him, should you be on his pathway you would not see him coming he would have appeared out of nowhere and splashed right through you, you would only observe him after the event, speeding off from the scene of the accident.
We can illustrate this with an interesting little mind experiment.
Imagine a wondrous box, whose top and bottom were perfect mirrors facing each other. The rest of the box is made of glass.
Into the box you drop a single photon. The two mirrors being perfect reflect the photon up and down and up and down, continuously at the speed of light. Now holding the box in front of your face, begin to run sideways.
The photon continues to go up and down at the same speed.
But wait a minute! Your sideways movement meant that the photon had to move through extra space, I mean, imagine moving at relativistic speeds (watch out for busses and stuff, don't try this in Dublin), Imagine for every inch the light went that you moved an inch also. You would make the light travel the diagonal of a square. Yet you do not observe the light to travel diagonally and be shot out of the side of your box after reflecting diagonally off one of the mirrors, it stays going up and down.
Time has slowed down, because, from the observation of the photon continuing to just go up and down, we know that the speed of light, is constant no matter how fast or slowly we move, relative to it. If this speed remained constant, but the amount of space it moved through increased, then time itself has slowed. In a universe travelling or expanding at the speed of light everything moving within it has time to do so.
The consequential general theory of relativity then shows gravity to be the curvature of space-time, and that mass and energy effect the curvature and that curvature influences the movement of mass and matter.
The more matter you compress into a smaller space, the greater the curvature or greater the gravity.
Anyway that is a four dimensional universe for you.
It however isn't compatible with quantum mechanics, which we also know to be correct, yes the mechanism that will convert one into the other or from which either may be derived has so far eluded us, until now.
We live in a universe with more than four dimensions. Remember that your conscious mind is always in the present yet you are aware of time moving forwards. These other dimensions are also similar but not so perceptible or they can be very perceptible if one agrees as to the existence of the universe to being a clue in and of itself.
Before the big bang, space, energy/matter, time and all the forces were curled up into a point like particle with a diameter of about the Plank length.
But just how many dimensions were there?
Many were tried but none seemed to work until string theory was merged with Supergravity theory. It was seen that string theory itself was but a process within another. Our universe was part of a multiverse with huge and at the same time tiny structures colliding with each other in the eleventh dimension, each collision forming a new universe. Our universe is very massive in one sense and very small in another, this can be seen in quantum mechanics where everything has the potential to effect everything else, and in relativity where everything isn't seen to effect everything else. It is both expanding and contracting at the same time. M Theory was born. One part of our universe seems to be composed of four dimensions rapidly expanding relative to our almost twin but really an extension of our own a universe of six dimensions which seems to be contracting relative to the four dimensional one.
During the big bang, the four forces and the four dimensions separated outwards, seven dimensions remained curled up. In six of these dimensions strings interact with each other and cause fundamental structures like particles, energy and forces. These strings vibrate in universal harmony and everything and we are the melody. In the final and the 11th. Dimension, structures called membranes collide and probably do loads of other interesting stuff and these collisions cause little 10 dimensional universes to form. The effect and interaction of these huge and tiny globular entities pulsating and vibrating can be felt in all other dimensions, in six they become string theory and quantum mechanics, and in four they become relativity. And our universe is but one of unlimited universes each with a set of different laws.
This is the theory. M meaning membrane, or mother of all theories.
We have the theory but we don't as of yet have the full understanding of how and why it works.
You see we now have a multiverse on our hands and an infinite variety of universes are possible.
We know we live in a particular universe but we have yet to isolate the description of it from all the other possible descriptions.
It is a real bitch to have a picture that shows everything possible but not be able to find the bit you want. It's like a massive where the fuck is Wally puzzle.
Then again look at what man did with the power derived from converting matter to energy.
What would he do with the power to derive everything from nothing?
The membranes collide, causing universes, in one of these universes, strings vibrate and interact and cause the quantum and relativistic universe we know and love. Of all the possible universes in the many worlds theory and all the possible universes in Membrane theory, to say we are looking for a needle in a haystack it to ultimately understate the case. But we have lots of time, to learn how to be more that capable of anything. This is a case of lots done but lots left to do, but this time there is keen intent and purpose in the equation.
We are nearing an age of possible transcendence; we would have the power to create life itself, other than the good old-fashioned way, to create other universes, we who have chucked rocks at each other since we figured out how to do it. Technology will not wait for us to develop the morality to use it at our leisure. Should world peace not be present when this theory is finally sorted out, not even a supreme God could or would help us.
I may further add that in the next couple of years new particle accelerators will probably allow us to prove string theory and the unification of forces, this will be to point to a very definite area within the big picture and will turn the problem into a very finite number crunching problem, It will then be a race to see who derives the correct formulae first.
We do not have much time, the shit must stop soon.
It may take centuries but it could happen tomorrow if chance dictated.
The power derived from this new knowledge would be reasonable at first but will rapidly expand. Would you trust your neighbour if he had the power of a God over you? Would you become as an annoying insect to him. Look at the way it works now and imagine it multiplied to a cosmological scale.
At the end of the day human beings must search for unity but allow and accept diversity. In the short term it will allow us all to get along but in the long term it is essential for our survival. We all worry about a big rock smacking into us and ending us like the dinosaurs but this risk is infinitesimal in comparison to the risk of destruction by our own hand.
To sum it up in a nutshell, save this dance for us.
Allow me to leave you with this thought. Imagine a clock that was powered by turning a lever. This lever is on an axle with a cog on it. This cog it connected to a smaller cog on another axle. This axle has another and bigger cog that is attached to a smaller cog and the process repeats itself many times until finally a small cog on the final axle, which also contains the hand for our clock.
The overall gear ratio is such that if I turn the lever moving the outer end of it at a constant speed of anything more than a millimetre per second then the tip of the hand of my clock will travel at the speed of light. My clock is manufactured elsewhere and is unbreakable and the housing for my clock is immovable.
What if I could apply an irresistible force that moves at more than a millimetre a second to my lever?
What happens when an irresistible force meets that which will become an immovable object? This is what it takes to produce nothing.
And from nothing the potential is boundless.
May chance save us from the consequences of liberating mass and energy from the void.
We are an expression of the universe as a whole and as a multiverse teeming with universes, we believe we express, this is ok because this is part of the description of the universe too, the vastness of, and the amount of complexity conspires to invent fate.
We should strive for contentment and peace, otherwise everything is pointless, we should make our individual pictures, and our collective picture, and pictures, find a place of balance, because in the big picture, we are but a partial state in an overall structure, in which we cannot, make or break, we can but follow and discover our own rules.