The Jazz of Physics The Secret Link Between Music and the Structure of the Universe

The Jazz of Physics The Secret Link Between Music and the Structure of the Universe

ISBN13: 9780465034994Pub Date: 04/26/2016 | Price: $27.50 / $35.99 CAN
Publisher: Basic Books
Trim: 6.13 x 9.25 in | 272 Pages

About the Book

More than fifty years ago, John Coltrane drew the twelve musical notes in a circle and connected them by straight lines, forming a five-pointed star. Inspired by Einstein, Coltrane had put physics and geometry at the core of his music. Physicist and jazz musician Stephon Alexander returns the favor, using jazz to answer physics’ most vexing questions about the past and future of the universe.

Following the great minds that first drew the links between music and physics—a list including Pythagoras, Kepler, Newton, Einstein, and Rakim—The Jazz of Physics revisits the ancient realm where music, physics, and the cosmos were one. This cosmological journey accompanies Alexander’s own tale of struggling to reconcile his passion for music and physics, from taking music lessons as a boy in the Bronx to studying theoretical physics at Imperial College, London’s inner sanctum of string theory. Playing the saxophone and improvising with equations, Alexander uncovered the connection between the fundamental waves that make up sound and the fundamental waves that make up everything else. As he reveals, the ancient poetic idea of the “music of the spheres,” taken seriously, clarifies confounding issues in physics.

Whether you are more familiar with Brian Greene or Brian Eno, John Coltrane or John Wheeler, the Five Percent Nation or why the universe is less than five percent visible, there is a new discovery on every page. Covering the entire history of the universe from its birth to its fate, its structure on the smallest and largest scales, The Jazz of Physics will fascinate and inspire anyone interested in the mysteries of our universe, music, and life itself.

About the Author

Stephon Alexander is a Professor of Physics at Brown University and the winner of the 2013 American Physical Society Bouchet Award. He is also a jazz musician and recently finished recording his first electronic jazz album with Erin Rioux. Alexander lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

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Physics/Quantum Theory

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Advance praise for The Jazz of Physics:

“In this loosely autobiographical meditation, Alexander explores resonances between music and physics in Pythagoras’ ‘music of the spheres,’ Albert Einstein’s love of music, Coltrane’s love of Einstein, and his own ideas as a theoretical physicist and jazz saxophonist. It’s a vast, cosmic theme that includes quantum mechanics, superstring theory, the Big Bang, the evolution of galaxies, and the process of scientific theorizing itself…. Alexander’s enthusiasm for his subject is infectious.”
Kirkus Reviews

“In this very creative work Stephon Alexander leads us through his remarkable journey from jazz musician to theoretical physics, from the music of the spheres to string theory.”
—Leon N. Cooper, Nobel Laureate, Physics, 1972

“A riveting firsthand account of the power of the intuitive and unconscious in the process of scientific discovery. Being both a top-notch physicist and jazz musician, Stephon Alexander has a unique voice. Listening to him, you will hear the music of the universe.”
—Edward Frenkel, author of Love and Math

“Stephon Alexander is a great storyteller and he paints vivid portraits of the masters of music and science who guide him on his search. If you spend one evening of your life contemplating the relationship between art and science, spend it with this book.”
—Lee Smolin, founding member of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and author of Time Reborn and The Trouble with Physics

“Stephon Alexander has written an entertaining and important book about how science is becoming more like improvised music. Young musicians and scientists will find a deeper way to connect with their work in its pages.”
—Jaron Lanier, author of Who Owns the Future?

“This book could just as well be called The Joy of Physics because what leaps out from it is Stephon Alexander’s delight and curiosity about the cosmos, and the deep pleasure he finds in exploring it. True to the jazz he loves so much, Stephon is an intellectual improviser riffing with ideas and equations. It’s a pleasure to witness.”
—Brian Eno, artist, composer and producer

“Whether he’s hanging with Brian Eno or Brian Greene, Alexander never loses sight of the math or the melodies, never condescends to his reader, but rather uses his own childlike awe and personal charm to take us into the details of chords and equations. It’s impossible to resist following him as he ‘solos with the equations of D-branes’ on paper napkins in jazz clubs, searching for the eloquent underlying harmonies that brought the universe (and us) into being.”
—K. C. Cole, author of Something Incredibly Wonderful Happens and The Universe and the Teacup: The Mathematics of Truth and Beauty

“Music, physics and mathematics have lived in tune since Pythagoras and Kepler, but Stephon Alexander’s book creates a new and powerful resonance, coupling the improvisational world of jazz to the volatile personality of quantum mechanics, and making the frontiers of cosmology and quantum gravity reverberate like in no other book.”
—João Magueijo, Professor of Physics at Imperial College London and author of Faster Than The Speed of Light

The Jazz of Physics is a cornucopia of music, string theory, and cosmology. Stephon takes his reader on a journey through hip hop, jazz, to new ideas in our understanding of the first moment of the big bang. It is a book filled with passion, j – See more at:


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NPR Interview: Scientist Stephon Alexander: ‘Infinite Possibilities’ Unite Jazz And Physics

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Physicist Stephon Alexander shares his love of science with his students at Brown University, and his love of jazz with musicians around Providence. Courtesy Ari Daniel Stephon Alexander didn’t always