Physics of Music
- University of Pennsylvania, Doctorate in Physics,
- Hunter College, Bachelor of Arts, Summa Cum Laude, Physics
In physics we look for analytical approaches that can be used to solve a variety of problems. The wave approach is a common thread through a number of courses I teach: General Physics II, The Physics of Music, Modern Physics and Optics. Each of these courses applies the general approach of wave theory to particular applications ranging from thin film interference and vibrating strings to the electronic structure of the hydrogen atom. All of these phenomena can be described as a solution to a wave equation, so finding solutions and describing the physics employs a similar approach even though the systems are quite different.
I have been interested in music for most of my life and in 2003 I was offered a wonderful opportunity when music theorist Diane Follet suggested that she and I develop an interdisciplinary, team-taught Physics of Music course. I had the good fortune to collaborate with Professor Follet at the intersection of music and physics for ten years. In that time, my knowledge of musical acoustics deepened and became one of my main professional interests.
As an amateur violinist, I developed a particular interest in the physics of the violin. You may be familiar with the famous violins crafted by Stradivari and Amati. A great deal of research has focused on the exceptional quality of these instruments; physicists and musicians still debate the question today. There is also interesting physics associated with the bowed string. Herbert von Helmholtz, a medical doctor who was an excellent pianist with a talent for physics, was the first to explore this connection. He invented an ingenious device to record the shape of the bowed string over time. That movement, Helmholtz motion, comes about because of the way the string sticks and slips under the changing friction of the bow.
My current research is a study of playability in carbon fiber and wood violins. Playability is the ease with which an instrument speaks, related to the minimum bow force needed to establish Helmholtz motion. Using a bowing machine designed by Professor Robert Mores and built by Muhlenberg Plant Operations staff, Ann Bodnyk ’69, Julia Kotler ’18 and I are comparing the minimum bow force needed to establish Helmholtz motion on carbon fiber and wood violins.
Recent Teaching Responsibilities
- Physics for Life
- General Physics I (Lecture and Lab)
- General Physics II (Lecture and Lab)
- Modern Physics
- Thermal and Statistical Physics
- Optics: From Lenses to Lasers
The Paul C. Empie Memorial Award, 2009 for teaching distinguished by a quest for meaning and value in learning, Muhlenberg College
Academic Support Bridge Builder Award, Muhlenberg College
Jane Flood, and Alana Albus, Incorporating Job Search Activities into a Modern Physics Class, Meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers, Orlando FL January 6, 2014
Jane Flood, Improving Recruitment and Retention in the Mathematical and Physical Sciences, Summer Meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers. Portland, Oregon July 13-17, 2013
Diane Follet and Jane Flood, The Science of Sound: Web-based Resources for the Physics of Music Diane Follet and Jane Flood, CMS/ATMI Technology Workshop, 2011 National Conference, Richmond, VA, October 19, 2011
Clif Kussmaul and Jane Flood, A writing intensive cornerstone course for STEM students. 4th Annual Symposium on Engineering & Liberal Education, Union College, Schenectady, NY.
June 3-4, 2011
Jane D. Flood and Diane Follet, An Interdisciplinary, Inquiry-based ‘Physics of Music’ Course, Winter Meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers, Albuquerque, New Mexico, January 12, 2005
Jane D. Flood and Diane Follet, An Interdisciplinary, Inquiry-based ‘Physics of Music’ Course Impact and Innovation Conference, organized by The American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Science Foundation, April 16-18, 2004