**Brian Greene**: Albert Einstein dreamed of finding what he called a Unified Theory. By that he meant a single idea, a single principle, maybe even a single equation that might describe everything in the universe. He worked long and hard many decades to try to find the theory and he never did. Since his passing many physicists haven take up where he left off, and many of us believe then an approach called String Theory may be the Unified Theory that he was looking for. And the basic idea of the unified description of all matter is pretty straightforward. If you take any piece of material, say a piece of wood, cut it in half, cut it in half again, keep on cutting it to ever smaller pieces, the basic question is what’s the smallest piece that you get to? What is the finest uncuttable constituent? Now we all know if you cut fine enough you get molecules, if you cut them up, you get atoms, if you cut them up even further you get other particles, electrons going around the nucleus with neutrons and protons, even though the neutrons and protons are smaller entities called quarks. The conventional idea stopped there. String Theory comes along and says “There may be one more layer of structure: inside an electron, inside a quark, inside any particle you have heard of, according to these ideas, is a little tiny filament. Looks like a tiny little string, that’s why it’s called String Theory, and the little strings can vibrate in different patterns.”

So the idea is that, according to this theory an electron can be a string vibrating in one pattern. You can call it a middle C if you want, by the musical analogy, a quark could be a string vibrating at a different pattern like an A. So the difference between one particle and another is simply the note that its string is playing. And this is the unified description that this theory puts forward: everything can be reduced to the notes these fundamental strings are playing. Now that’s metaphorical. There’s math behind this, that allows us to see all of the key elements of physics can find a home in this description, but in a nutshell that’s what this theory says.

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]]>**Brian Greene**: Perhaps the most familiar kind of interval in music is the octave where you have C and another C They sound kind of the same but the second one is higher pitch relative to the first. Mathematically we know how those two waves, those two vibrations relate to one another. So when two notes are an octave apart the wavelength of one is twice the wavelength of the other or said differently the frequency of the higher one is twice the frequency of the lower one. So that is a very simple relationship between how quickly the note, the string if it is producing that note is vibrating, and if it’s vibrating twice as fast, it’ll be an octave higher.

There’s a lot of math in music in that the relationship between vibrations can be phrased mathematically. The art of music of course goes beyond the math in doing things that don’t really come out of a formula, don’t come out of some well defined system of going from one note to the next but using sort of creative genius to do things unexpectedly. That’s where I think the music happens.

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]]>**Brian Greene**: When we talk about vibration in physics, we have an interesting set of equations, mathematical equations that govern how a system vibrates. So if we have a string on a violin, we have an equation for how that string will vibrate. And that equation is one we can study mathematically and predict for a given string, what it will sound like based in the mathematics. And this set of equations, the equations for what we call simple harmonic motion are the most ubiquitous equations in all of physics. They’re the ones we deal all the time in a wealth of different systems, in cosmology we deal with them, in astrophysics we deal with them, in everyday settings we deal with them. Those equations are the bread and butter of physics.

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]]>Lesson Plans:

We’ve developed core tools around the concepts of chords, frequency, and rhythm in partnership with Indaba Music. These tools incorporated in the lesson plans can also be appreciated on their own! Feel free to check out these fun interactives below.

**Learn about basic chord stucture**: