10 Connections Between Physics and Music

Pattern Recognition
If the members of an orchestra all do their own thing, you just get noise. But if they work together to play a piece of music, listeners hear glorious patterns. ©Digital Vision/Photodisc/Thinkstock

If you're on a road trip and flip on the radio, only to hear a steady, one-note tone, you're probably not going to keep listening. That's because a single, unending tone isn't music. There's no pattern.

Noise is just a chaotic jumble of sounds. For example, noise is jackhammers echoing through a corridor of buildings while cars honk their horns randomly.

In music, patterns emerge. If you look at visual representation of music's wave patterns, it's a regular, predictable up and down series of peaks and valleys. A representation of noise, however, has irregular peaks and valleys, so there's no music. All you get is weird, unpredictable sounds that don't generally make a positive impression on the human ear. (Though of course, there's no accounting for taste – some people find discord beautiful.)