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Explaining Quantum Physics with Heavy Metal

Flavio Gasperini / unsplash

Over the past few years, breakthroughs in quantum physics and astrophysics have been making international headlines. (Think Higgs boson and gravitational waves.)

But many of us struggle to understand what these advances mean or why we should even care.

A new book attempts to explain elements of quantum physics with the help of heavy metal.

“With metal... the way you play the guitar -- the chugging riffs, the squealing harmonics you tease out of the guitar, the drum beats themselves, the histrionics of the vocals -- in each you can find parallels with certain aspects of quantum,” said Philip Moriarty, Professor of Physics at the University of Nottingham and author of When the Uncertainty Principle Goes to 11: Or How to Explain Quantum Physics with Heavy Metal

One of the models in the book looks at the physics of a mosh pit.

“And perhaps unsettling thing for heavy metal fans is that the dynamics of people moving at heavy metal concerts can be described exactly using the same physics that we used to describe completely dumb, inanimate inorganic molecules,” Moriarty laughed. 

Web content produced by Liz Lerner and Elsa Partan. 

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Elsa Partan is a producer and newscaster with CAI. She first came to the station in 2002 as an intern and fell in love with radio. She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. From 2006 to 2009, she covered the state of Wyoming for the NPR member station Wyoming Public Media in Laramie. She was a newspaper reporter at The Mashpee Enterprise from 2010 to 2013. She lives in Falmouth with her husband and two daughters.