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The Physics of Musical Instruments

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Miss Clare Buckley.


Musical instruments provide fascinating and elegant examples of physics in action. They are among the earliest human inventions, are fairly common in our daily lives, and seem relatively simple in their construction and operation. When approached from a physics standpoint, however, one finds that musical instruments embody many fundamental and intriguing phenomena that are not otherwise apparent. Demonstrations, audio clips, and other real-world examples will be used to explore the hidden science of instrumental music-making in a way that appeals to physicists, musicians, and non-specialists alike.


Matt Smith is currently a candidate for the MPhil in Engineering and is the Harvard Scholar at Pembroke College, Cambridge. He graduated with a BA in Applied Mathematics from Harvard University in June, 2007. His past research has included several assignments at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA working on space-based optical systems for planet detection. He has also worked for Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems in El Segundo, CA. Next autumn Matt will begin graduate study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a member of the Space Systems Lab. He plays viola, the drums, and desperately wants to play the guitar.

This talk is part of the Ivory Tower Society, Pembroke College series.

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