Paper: The statistical mechanics of music

Today I will discuss:

“The structure of musical harmony as an ordered phase of sound: A statistical mechanics approach to music theory” by Jesse Berezovsky in Science Advances (2019). Publicly accessible

I don’t remember where I found this paper, but at some point I wrote it on the back of my hand, so to speak, and it sounds intriguing. This paper uses statistical physics methods to try to explain music. In particular, it’s interested in explaining tuning systems, especially 12 equal divisions of the octave (12edo), as a way of minimizing dissonance while maximizing musical possibility.

Initially I’m quite skeptical, and you should be too. If I were more familiar with world music traditions, I’m sure could point out several traditions that violate this paper’s assumptions, including traditions that don’t use 12edo, and traditions that aren’t clearly trying to minimize dissonance. Even in western musical systems, there’s quite a lot of emphasis on the dissonant major 7th, which calls into question how much minimizing dissonance is really the goal. Nonetheless, it seems an interesting exercise to see how much we can predict from these assumptions, and if the predictions don’t match reality we can later back up and consider where it went wrong.

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Why is Christian media bad?

Media that is specifically branded as Christian—such as Christian rock, or any movies that appear on PureFlix—has a reputation for being bad, to put it lightly. Why is that?

To contextualize this question, I don’t think there’s anything morally wrong with producing, consuming, or enjoying “bad” media. You could say I’m antagonistic to Christianity and Christian values, but that doesn’t necessarily imply that their media must be bad too.  And saying that Christian media is bad does not necessarily argue that Christianity itself is bad. We can imagine a possible world where atheists didn’t like Christianity but had to begrudgingly admit that Christian media was high quality. In fact, atheists do tend to say positive things about a few specific Christian works, such as Jesus Christ Superstar.

To further motivate the question, I think a lot of media geared towards queer audiences is bad. I’ve watched quite a number of LGBT movies, and not only do they get lower review scores on average, I also have a subjective experience of lower quality. I accept the lower quality, because I’m interested in the genre and representation.  But why is it bad?  Could Christian media be following similar dynamics, or is it an entirely different beast?

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Link Roundup: April 2022

Why is board gaming so white and male? I’m trying to figure that out | The Conversation – The author doesn’t answer the question in the title, but does share a bunch of statistics they’ve been collecting in their research on board gaming.  Regardless of the cause, board gamers and board game designers ought to make a conscious effort to make the hobby welcoming to demographics that may, at first, not appear to be present.  As a simple example of this, Dominion used to have predominantly male characters in its art, and reportedly this is because the game publisher hired a bunch of artists, most of whom independently decided to depict male subjects.  So the designer started specifically requesting that artists depict women, and this led to the gender ratios becoming more balanced.

The Ethics of Looking and the “Harmless” Peeping Tom | Pop Culture Detective (video, 28 min) – A serious discussion of peeping toms in film.  Usually this is depicted as a harmless action, performed by sympathetic protagonists, with the camera’s point of view chosen to simulate the audience’s participation as well.  I highly appreciate Pop Culture Detective’s ability to find lots and lots of examples in film, often in movies I’ve already seen, but in scenes I had forgotten, or were just beneath my awareness.  While the fictional depiction of peeping toms does not directly lead to people becoming peeping toms, it becomes this sort of cultural background noise where invading privacy is normalized and not taken very seriously.

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Asexuality in rightwing media

I subscribe to Google alerts on asexuality and aromanticism, mostly as a way of finding the best articles to highlight in The Asexual Agenda linkspam. Recently I found two hostile articles from alt right sources. Such articles are rare; once I compiled statistics on the all the alerts from one month, and found that 2 out of 132 articles were hostile. But I still highlight these articles to showcase conservative anti-ace “tropes”.

Knowing what this is, it’s 100% okay to skip this one. I don’t post this on The Asexual Agenda because it’s too feelsbad for a lot of people.

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Origami: Mucube

Mucube 1

Mucube, designed by me, made out of modified Sonobe units

Someone asked me if this model was based on the Ukrainian flag.  Point in fact, I made this model last year, so it wasn’t.  But let’s say it is now.

This design was inspired by Jan Misali’s video about the 48 regular polyhedra.  The mucube is a series of connected squares that infinitely tile R3. Whether this really counts as a regular polyhedron is dubious… but obviously a great target for an origami design.  I liked it so much that I made two of them.  The other is below the fold.

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