The physics of music instruments explained | Neil Gershenfeld and Lex Fridman | Summary and Q&A

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May 31, 2023
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Lex Clips
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The physics of music instruments explained | Neil Gershenfeld and Lex Fridman

TL;DR

Exploring the computational capacity of a musical instrument leads to unexpected applications such as Auto Safety sensors.

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Questions & Answers

Q: How did the speaker's interest in physics and music lead to the exploration of the computational capacity of musical instruments?

The speaker's exposure to electronic music and collaboration with musicians and scientists sparked their curiosity about the computational capacity of musical instruments. This led to collaborations and projects exploring instrument control and resolution of detecting controls.

Q: How did the collaboration with Yo-Yo Ma and Todd Mackover contribute to the understanding of the computational capacity of musical instruments?

The collaboration allowed for the development of instruments that could extract data from Yo-Yo Ma's playing and translate it into computational environments. This exploration focused on resolution and bandwidth, understanding how fast one can measure and map controls into sounds.

Q: What unexpected application resulted from the research on instrument control?

The research on instrument control led to a collaboration with Penn and Teller, where they performed a magic trick using sensing fields. This led to the investigation of tomography with electric fields, which eventually resulted in the creation of Auto Safety sensors.

Q: How did the creation of Auto Safety sensors from the research on instrument control come about?

After the collaboration with Penn and Teller, Phil Rittmuller, a researcher who worked with Honda and NEC, discovered that the sensing technology could be used for Auto Safety sensors. This solved the problem of distinguishing occupants in cars and became a successful business.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The speaker's interest in the intersection of physics and music led them to discover David Borden, the first electronic musician, which sparked their curiosity about the computational capacity of musical instruments.

  • Collaboration with musician Yo-Yo Ma and scientist Todd Mackover led to the development of instruments that could extract data and translate it into computational environments.

  • The research on instrument control and resolution of detecting controls led to a collaboration with Penn and Teller, which ultimately resulted in the creation of Auto Safety sensors.

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