The insightfulness of musical dissonance, intuition and quantum physics

Katie McCormick wrote an interesting piece on quantum music, whether dissonance “yields better insights”, and how music could help build intuition in physics:

This is where I think music can play the biggest role in physics: in building intuition. Intuition isn’t something granted only to geniuses or only to be trusted by the chosen few Einsteins of the world. Much of research in physics education is based on just this: helping students build a conceptual and intuitive framework to solve physics problems. Physics education researchers have found that giving students time for ‘messing about’, or exploring a physical system on their own – whether that’s in a lab, using computer simulations, or perhaps even through music – helps the students build an intuitive understanding of physics, which is demonstrated in their improvement in answering conceptual physics questions.

How can music help build this physics intuition? It’s a different way of conceptualising mathematics, the language of physics. While some musical features are certainly culturally specific (such as the glissando, as discussed earlier), there’s a remarkable universality to many aspects of music. For example, a certain scale called the pentatonic scale in Western music shows up again and again in many different cultures around the world. Music, like mathematics, obeys the same laws, no matter where you are. But, also like mathematics, it’s such a broad field that it allows for creativity in inventing new subsets of mathematical rules, leading to new styles and genres of music, and possibly inspiring new lines of enquiry in physics.

It was nice to see Stephon Alexander get a reference too.

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