Kerry K. Kuehn

Philosophy

Galileo, Harmony and Piano Tuning

In his Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences (1638), Galileo raises the question: why it is that certain combinations of notes sound good together, while others do not?

For example, two notes separated by an octave, or three notes forming a major chord, will sound pleasant when struck simultaneously. On the other hand, if one were to randomly pick out two keys on a piano and strike them simultaneously, then they would typically sound dissonant. Why is this?

Perhaps most interestingly, it seems that the identification of "pleasing" or "unpleasing" combinations of notes is not a subjective process, in the sense that people throughout history and from vastly different cultures come to similar conclusions on this topic. Why might this be?
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Honors Lecture: Aristotle, Ptolemy and Medieval Astronomy

ptolemaic

Today, I am giving a presentation on Aristotle, Ptolemy, and the Medieval worldview for an Honors class at Wisconsin Lutheran College. Read More…

Mind, biology, and the second law of thermodynamics

The second law of thermodynamics was derived not by doing measurements on the entire universe (the only truly closed, isolated system). Rather, it was derived by Rudolph Clausius after considering a large number of common everyday systems. In other words, it was a universal law generalized from everyday observations of nature. Even today, physics professors do not typically use the example of the entire universe to illustrate the second law. Rather, they use everyday examples such as breaking eggs, mixing cream into coffee, or heat flowing from hot to cold bodies despite the fact that none of them are isolated systems. Yet all of these examples convey the essential feature of the second law: that order tends to decrease in natural processes. Read More…

Let there be light!

Throughout history—and particularly during the time of the Reformation—many theologians were wrestling with how to think about the relationship between the revealed teachings of the Church and many new scientific discoveries. The curriculum at the University of Wittenberg, where many of the reformers (including Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon) held academic posts, reflected a thinking which was both broad and faithful. Read More…

Interview for LetTheBirdFly podcast

This past Sunday, I was interviewed for a weekly podcast entitled LetTheBirdFly—hosted by Wade Johnston, Peter Hermanson and Ben Leyrer. In addition to discussing my standard fare (physics) I fielded other questions relating to Charles Barkley, designated hitters, and the Gorter-Mellink coefficient of mutual friction (even my dissertation committee in Santa Barbara didn't press me on this issue). My interview appears in Episode 6. Read More…