Book Review: “The Jazz Of Physics”

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By Taylor Brown, Correspondent

           “The Jazz of Physics” by Dr. Stephon Alexander explores the connection between music and science and Coltrane and Einstein, two vastly different aspects of the world. Many famous and successful artists used math and physics to compose their music, adding a new facet to physics as we know it.

           Alexander not only explains the link between music and math, but also uses jazz to explain physical concepts. Throughout the book he uses anecdotal passages, biographical tidbits, graphs, data and analysis to compose his message.

           The author argues that music and physics go hand in hand, each building off of and learning from the other. By uniting two very different sides of the same coin, the pieces of the universe will continue to come together. John Coltrane, a famous saxophonist, is widely renowned for his skills and compositions. He was a catalyst in the free jazz movement and redefined the ways in which people played and listened to jazz.

           In the fifties, Coltrane drew twelve musical notes in a circle and connected them using Euclidean geometry. He utilized math and physics in his work, creating complex rhythms, harmonies and riffs. Alexander sees this as a direct connection to the configuration of music and the nature of physical concepts.

           Most significantly, the author uses vibration and resonance to relate physics and music. Over the course of a lengthy chapter, Alexander denotes exponential universal acceleration. He details how the cosmic microwave background releases a power spectrum that is driven by acoustic waves. Thus, Alexander asks “Is the universe behaving like an instrument?”

           If we can find similarities between the structures and behaviors of the cosmos and melody, we can use our understanding of each to further understand an inherently enigmatic universe. At the very least, we can identify which questions to ask.

           Alexander’s work is ultimately one long analogy. But as is the purpose of an analogy, he reveals similarities and correlation between two aspects of the universe. Perhaps Alexander’s theories are personal truths instead of objective fact, but regardless his perspectives are intriguing.

           Overall, I give “The Jazz of Physics” four out of five stars. Even if you’re not a physics major, or you failed calculus or the greek alphabet is just a bunch of scribbles to you, “The Jazz of Physics” is still a fascinating read. The book gives an alternate perspective to the world as it has been previously described, drawing connections between two universal facets.

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