Terry Buehler (Home Department: Physics)
Monday and Wednesday 1:00-2:00, 4 LeConte Hall (3 units), Class number: 39323
This course is also listed as Physics C21

Does the Campanile sound out of tune to you? What does this have to do with our understanding of the Big Bang? And how would thinking about this help me to write a better English essay, defend an innocent person accused of murder, save the world from the next plague, or at least understand why my friend can't carry a tune?

Physics and Music is a course designed to help students think about how to approach the world with the eyes, ears, and mind of a scientist. We will use the domain of music and sound to ask what we can learn about the nature of reality and the methods that we humans have developed to discover how the world works.

The mysteries of music have long inspired scientists to invent new tools of thought, and some of the earliest scientific concepts were invented to understand music. Surprisingly the concepts that underlie our approach to music appear again and again in the world around us, and they are still at play in the very latest theories and experiments of fundamental physics. Questions as simple as "Why do different instruments playing the same note sound so different?" can lead to profound answers about the physical world--and our human-limited capacity to explore it.

This course is not just for musicians or scientists. The material is accessible to students without a math or science—or music—background; and science majors will learn to better articulate what it is that science is about. Fundamentally, the course will model scientific curiosity and discipline to train you to ask the kinds of keen questions that will lead you to new levels of understanding.


This course may be used to satisfy the Physical Science breadth requirement in Letters and Science.