Our Annual Prestige Lecture this year went down a storm – with Rock Doctor Mark Lewney well and truly blowing our minds and ears! Full of showmanship and humour, Dr. Lewney wowed his audience, rocking us with his electric guitar through 11 dimensions!
He began with showing off his amazing talent with some requests from the audience, ranging from Metallica to Guns and Roses and even Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars. Once all had settled in to the patter of his humour and awesome playing, he began by explaining sound and how it links to our voice box. Sound is simply vibrations and he explained that they form patterns called sine waves.
For an example, he selected our wonderful BSA President Lucy, from the audience to demonstrate the patterns of vibrations called harmonics. For this he used a childhood favourite – a slinky. Wriggling the slinky at different rates (with Lucy holding the other end) it was clear to see the different patterns taking shape.
Then it was time for us to learn about the vibrations of a string (this is where the guitar comes in) and what impacts its sound – tension, length and thickness. Once we knew that the longer the string the lower the sound and other similar properties, it was time to take our basic physics knowledge and apply it to string theory.
The idea behind string theory is that all the particles in the universe are the vibrations of the same tiny strings (smaller than an atom kind of tiny). Even that it is possible those strings can vibrate in lots of different dimensions. This of course boggles the mind to think about more than 3 dimensions. But some scientists think it could be that there are many tiny dimensions within our three, perhaps a hidden extra 6 or 7 within these tiny strings. Obviously, we don’t yet have the technology to test string theory and so for many it remains a mysterious and intriguing idea. Very few people fully understand string theory – even Mark held his hands up and said he wasn’t one of those people!
But is it possible that the universe could actually be made of music?
Well after the Rock Doctor had finished his rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody for his finale, I was left feeling anything was possible – and that’s the “kind of magic” I like!