Giving Context to Classical Music
Leon Botstein: The idea of "Classics \r\nDeclassified," this series we have at Symphony Space, which we’ve been \r\ndoing for a long time in New York. We did Miller Theater and Cooper \r\nUnion in years past. Basically the idea is to try to give the audience \r\nan idea of the context and the character of the piece in a way which \r\nwould inform their listening without guiding it. There’s a whole \r\ngeneration of music education videos or programs, Leonard Bernstein \r\npioneered them with the young people’s concerts. Michael Tilson Thomas’ \r\nseries with the San Francisco. A lot of those programs tried to explain \r\nthe piece—take a Beethoven’s symphony, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony—and \r\nto... which everybody knows, and try to explain how it’s put together. \r\nSo it’s as if you had a video on audio mechanics and someone took the \r\ncar apart. They showed you here is the, here are the pistons and here is\r\n the wheel and here is the tire and here’s the starter and here are the \r\nelectronics. This is the transmission. And this is how it works, and \r\nteach you some basic physics on why the car moves so that you can learn \r\nsomething about why the car actually moves and works and how it works. \r\nSo that’s one way of doing it.
We don’t do that. What we do is \r\nsomething different. We don’t try to simplify a complex subject like \r\nmusic theory and music form, which... a lot of technical vocabulary, \r\nwhich most people don’t know. Once upon a time everybody went to, you \r\nknow, piano lessons in a middle class audience and they knew a little \r\nbit about, could read music sort of and they could play the piano so \r\nthey knew the difference between major and minor and you could use some \r\ntechnical vocabulary.
That’s gone. Most people who grew up with \r\npop music and rock music, they play, they do it by ear, they improvise. \r\nThey don’t know any theory, they don’t know any lingo. So what do you \r\nwant to talk to them about? They’re educated people. You want to talk \r\nabout the things that they are interested in that connect to music. So \r\nwe talk about the politics of the period in which the period the piece \r\nwas written. We’ll talk about the relationship to literature; to art; to\r\n the problems in the composition; what the piece did for the composer \r\nbiographically; where it comes from in the composer’s lifetime; what \r\ntheir relationship between music and other issues—they can be \r\nphilosophical, they can be political, they can be poetic.
Also \r\nwhat’s innovative; so in a case of a very well-known piece, like the 5th\r\n symphony, you want to show a little bit how the piece is put together \r\nin order to show why Beethoven is special, what has made this piece so \r\nfamous, and what’s the key to his popularity. Why do people think the \r\npiece represents victory? Why do they think the piece represents \r\nsomething that’s military? Why did Peter Schickele the composer who was a\r\n humorist, narrate a football game using the first movement of the \r\nBeethoven’s Fifth as a soundtrack? Why did the allies use the opening \r\nbars as a symbol of victory? Why did this piece become an icon? So you \r\ndo explain a little bit about how the piece is put together.
But\r\n you talk more about thinking about ways of thinking about the piece, \r\nbecause you don’t want to tell the audience how to listen. I’m always \r\noffended by program explanations or notes that sort of say, well, here \r\ncomes a trumpet tune and then it changes key and then there’s a \r\nvariation, so the poor listeners are looking for what someone has taught\r\n her or him to look at. So it’s as if take a boat around Manhattan, \r\ninstead of leaving me to look around to see. I might look at the sky; I \r\nmight look at the water. But they've told me there’s the Empire State \r\nBuilding so I’m waiting for the Empire State Building to arrive. Then \r\nthey go around the bend and they tell me, well, there’s the United \r\nNations. I’m waiting for the United Nations to arrive. Well, I might as \r\nwell stay at home, you know? I haven’t seen anything on my own.
You\r\n don’t want to turn music listening to tourism. Tourism is a fraud. You \r\nbuy a little guidebook and it tells you to go see the Eiffel Tower in \r\nParis and that’s all they see. The best thing to do is throw the \r\nguidebook away and just go for a walk. You’ll discover the place for \r\nyourself. So what we try to do is help the person discover stuff and \r\nthink about stuff without giving them answers.
Leon Botstein explains why his "Classics Declassified" is akin to discovering a new city by wandering around.
It's just the current cycle that involves opiates, but methamphetamine, cocaine, and others have caused the trajectory of overdoses to head the same direction
- It appears that overdoses are increasing exponentially, no matter the drug itself
- If the study bears out, it means that even reducing opiates will not slow the trajectory.
- The causes of these trends remain obscure, but near the end of the write-up about the study, a hint might be apparent
Through computationally intensive computer simulations, researchers have discovered that "nuclear pasta," found in the crusts of neutron stars, is the strongest material in the universe.
- The strongest material in the universe may be the whimsically named "nuclear pasta."
- You can find this substance in the crust of neutron stars.
- This amazing material is super-dense, and is 10 billion times harder to break than steel.
Superman is known as the "Man of Steel" for his strength and indestructibility. But the discovery of a new material that's 10 billion times harder to break than steel begs the question—is it time for a new superhero known as "Nuclear Pasta"? That's the name of the substance that a team of researchers thinks is the strongest known material in the universe.
Unlike humans, when stars reach a certain age, they do not just wither and die, but they explode, collapsing into a mass of neurons. The resulting space entity, known as a neutron star, is incredibly dense. So much so that previous research showed that the surface of a such a star would feature amazingly strong material. The new research, which involved the largest-ever computer simulations of a neutron star's crust, proposes that "nuclear pasta," the material just under the surface, is actually stronger.
The competition between forces from protons and neutrons inside a neutron star create super-dense shapes that look like long cylinders or flat planes, referred to as "spaghetti" and "lasagna," respectively. That's also where we get the overall name of nuclear pasta.
Caplan & Horowitz/arXiv
Diagrams illustrating the different types of so-called nuclear pasta.
The researchers' computer simulations needed 2 million hours of processor time before completion, which would be, according to a press release from McGill University, "the equivalent of 250 years on a laptop with a single good GPU." Fortunately, the researchers had access to a supercomputer, although it still took a couple of years. The scientists' simulations consisted of stretching and deforming the nuclear pasta to see how it behaved and what it would take to break it.
While they were able to discover just how strong nuclear pasta seems to be, no one is holding their breath that we'll be sending out missions to mine this substance any time soon. Instead, the discovery has other significant applications.
One of the study's co-authors, Matthew Caplan, a postdoctoral research fellow at McGill University, said the neutron stars would be "a hundred trillion times denser than anything on earth." Understanding what's inside them would be valuable for astronomers because now only the outer layer of such starts can be observed.
"A lot of interesting physics is going on here under extreme conditions and so understanding the physical properties of a neutron star is a way for scientists to test their theories and models," Caplan added. "With this result, many problems need to be revisited. How large a mountain can you build on a neutron star before the crust breaks and it collapses? What will it look like? And most importantly, how can astronomers observe it?"
Another possibility worth studying is that, due to its instability, nuclear pasta might generate gravitational waves. It may be possible to observe them at some point here on Earth by utilizing very sensitive equipment.
The team of scientists also included A. S. Schneider from California Institute of Technology and C. J. Horowitz from Indiana University.
Check out the study "The elasticity of nuclear pasta," published in Physical Review Letters.
Scientists think constructing a miles-long wall along an ice shelf in Antarctica could help protect the world's largest glacier from melting.
- Rising ocean levels are a serious threat to coastal regions around the globe.
- Scientists have proposed large-scale geoengineering projects that would prevent ice shelves from melting.
- The most successful solution proposed would be a miles-long, incredibly tall underwater wall at the edge of the ice shelves.
The world's oceans will rise significantly over the next century if the massive ice shelves connected to Antarctica begin to fail as a result of global warming.
To prevent or hold off such a catastrophe, a team of scientists recently proposed a radical plan: build underwater walls that would either support the ice or protect it from warm waters.
In a paper published in The Cryosphere, Michael Wolovick and John Moore from Princeton and the Beijing Normal University, respectively, outlined several "targeted geoengineering" solutions that could help prevent the melting of western Antarctica's Florida-sized Thwaites Glacier, whose melting waters are projected to be the largest source of sea-level rise in the foreseeable future.
An "unthinkable" engineering project
"If [glacial geoengineering] works there then we would expect it to work on less challenging glaciers as well," the authors wrote in the study.
One approach involves using sand or gravel to build artificial mounds on the seafloor that would help support the glacier and hopefully allow it to regrow. In another strategy, an underwater wall would be built to prevent warm waters from eating away at the glacier's base.
The most effective design, according to the team's computer simulations, would be a miles-long and very tall wall, or "artificial sill," that serves as a "continuous barrier" across the length of the glacier, providing it both physical support and protection from warm waters. Although the study authors suggested this option is currently beyond any engineering feat humans have attempted, it was shown to be the most effective solution in preventing the glacier from collapsing.
Source: Wolovick et al.
An example of the proposed geoengineering project. By blocking off the warm water that would otherwise eat away at the glacier's base, further sea level rise might be preventable.
But other, more feasible options could also be effective. For example, building a smaller wall that blocks about 50% of warm water from reaching the glacier would have about a 70% chance of preventing a runaway collapse, while constructing a series of isolated, 1,000-foot-tall columns on the seafloor as supports had about a 30% chance of success.
Still, the authors note that the frigid waters of the Antarctica present unprecedently challenging conditions for such an ambitious geoengineering project. They were also sure to caution that their encouraging results shouldn't be seen as reasons to neglect other measures that would cut global emissions or otherwise combat climate change.
"There are dishonest elements of society that will try to use our research to argue against the necessity of emissions' reductions. Our research does not in any way support that interpretation," they wrote.
"The more carbon we emit, the less likely it becomes that the ice sheets will survive in the long term at anything close to their present volume."
A 2015 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine illustrates the potentially devastating effects of ice-shelf melting in western Antarctica.
"As the oceans and atmosphere warm, melting of ice shelves in key areas around the edges of the Antarctic ice sheet could trigger a runaway collapse process known as Marine Ice Sheet Instability. If this were to occur, the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) could potentially contribute 2 to 4 meters (6.5 to 13 feet) of global sea level rise within just a few centuries."
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