String Theory


In ancient time, the Greek mathematician and astronomer Pythagoras speculated that the positions of the planets corresponded to the harmonic intervals of musical notes and that the planets vibrated as they were moved by the Prime Mover, thus producing musical tones as they moved through the heavens. This theory - the Music of the Spheres - held sway for over a thousand years, before advances in science rendered such beliefs as nonsense. However, several recent scientific discoveries have, in fact, begun to lend some credence to old Pythagoras' insights. For example, it has been determined that all things, both "living" (like bees who hum in B) as well as inert, like seemingly lifeless rocks, produce vibrations that give off harmonic tones. Using the most sensitive instrumentation, scientists have discovered that the celestial objects in the skies resonate at various tones. Not only planets and suns, but also even black holes, which have been found to "sing" at the lowest B-flat ever recorded - a full 57 octaves below middle-C on a piano. As objects oscillate in seemingly empty space, they produce harmonics and overtones, which react with other planets, moons, and asteroids (and their notes) to produce chords. Indeed, the universe is full of harmonies.

black hole Of course, most of this music is inaudible to human ears. In the 1970's, modern philosopher Guy Murchie, pointed out that humanity's auditory existence is positioned exactly 20 octaves below the pitch of an atom, and 20 octaves above the rumbling gravity song of the Earth itself - which he suggested is an important symmetrical feature of human life. His theories stated that there is a musical essence of the universe as revealed in the musical languages of such creatures of birds and whales, the tapping sounds produced by insects, the positive effect of music on the growth of plant life (as proven in various experiments), the presence of music in every human culture, and finally in the crystalline, mathematical structure of music itself - which resembles closely the intricate designs found within Nature itself.

Yet, it is the most recent scientific breakthroughs that fascinate me most. Seeking to find the solution that would explain the behavior of huge objects like galaxies as well as subatomic structures, and bring the previously incompatible Einstein's Theory of General Relativity together with Quantum Mechanics into a Grand Unified Theory that explains everything, scientists/mathematicians have expanded our reality to include 11 dimensions. We are only aware of the four dimensions our senses can experience (3 spatial plus 1 temporal - time); yet according to calculations, these other dimensions must exist. The human mind cannot perceive these other dimensions (except mathematically), but to grasp the concept, one can look at a circle drawn on a piece of paper. As Edwin Abbott wrote in his groundbreaking "Flatland" (1880!), a two dimensional being - living in a two dimensional world like the paper would not be able to conceive of a three-dimensional form like a sphere, yet it exists in a higher dimension. If current theories are correct, our perceptions are confined to a small slice of a multi-dimensional universe. Can you imagine what extra-dimensional music must sound/feel/taste like? We do not currently have the faculties to be able to perceive more than our thin slice, but I would suspect a somewhat similar (though lesser and more earthbound) example would be a concert with a really, really good light show.

The most astounding conjecture of the current theory is the existence of tiny, vibrating one-dimensional "strings" of energy deep within the fundamental particles that compose everything in the universe. When I say tiny, I am not doing justice to how small these stings are: they are smaller than atoms, protons, neutrons, electrons, or even quarks: NOVA states that if an atom were expanded to the size of a universe, a string would be the size of a tree. It is highly unlikely that anyone in our lifetime will ever see a string, yet mathematical equations say they must exist. The underlying mathematics are too complex to be repeated here, nor do I claim more than a basic knowledge, yet if the projections hold true, these minute vibrating strings, which exist as both open and closed loops, may be the key to our understanding how the universe works, though no doubt the questions of the meaning of our existence will still go on throughout our existence.

As a musician, I like the idea of everything in the universe being made up strings, all vibrating their own frequencies, together producing symphonies of incredible depth and beauty all around, and it seems to me to explain a lot about our fascination with a plucked string (or beaten drum) throughout history. For in producing musical notes and vibrations, we not only communicate with each other and the rest of Nature to which we are a part, but like children, pretending to be grown up and playing "house," we - with our Brahma/Shiva dualistic essence - create/compose and destroy (no, actually dissipate would be a better word since energy is never destroyed - merely converted into another form) our own tiny universes like the mysterious Creator we seek to emulate.

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