How the Fourier Transform helped resolve one of music’s biggest mysteries

Listen to this chord: CLICK HERE

Do you recognize the song? Read on - or listen to THIS segment on NPR

This first chord that starts A Hard Day’s Night is one of the most recognizable and famous opening chords in rock & roll. It’s played by George Harrison on his 12 string Rickenbacker. The other reason that it’s famous is because for 40 years nobody knew for sure what it was. Many guitar players have tried in vain to recreate the sound but have usually failed miserably.

Well, someone has figured it out definitively – Dalhousie mathematician. He decided to try and see if he could apply a mathematical calculation known as Fourier transform to solve the Beatles’ riddle. The process allowed him to break the sound into distinct frequencies using computer software to find out exactly which notes were on the record. He laughs that he may be the only mathematician ever to be published in Guitar Player magazine. “Music and math are not really that far apart,” he says.

Listen to Fourier Series

What the title says.


Check out THIS beautifully made video introduction to our course.


Prepare to freak out. This illusion on face perception called the “Flashed Face Distortion Effect” recently discovered by Australian Vision Scientists took the internet by storm, and yielded them the “Illusion of the Year” award of the Vision Sciences Society.

Seeing in the Dark

What is it like to lose your eyesight? Listen to this RADIOLAB podcast on the “MInd’s Eye”

Eye Site

Making things clearer

Illusion of the Year Contest

Each year scientists of the Vision Sciences Society vote for the best illusion they have seen among hundreds of submissions.

Check out the Best Illusion of 2012, as well as those of previous years.

Face blindness tests (Prosopagnosia)

Test your facial recognition abilities at:

The Cambridge Face Memory Test is arguably the most valid prosopagnosia screening tool currently available. This free online version involves becoming familiar with several faces and then identifying them from among similar-featured faces. Final scores are compared to norms for face memory.

Learn more about “face blindness” in these two episodes of CBS’ 60 Minutes.

The Perfect Yellow

Check out this great episode of NPR’s “Radiolab” on COLORS

Radiolab is one of NPR’s most popular shows, but this one was circled around the blogosphere for months.

Check out their “Color Walk”, the “Covers of the Rainbow”

Visual Illusions that slow you down

Check out how planting trees in a way that fools our visual system into creating an illusion of speed can help prevent speeding tickets.

Op Art

Learn more about how art and science tend to interact about exploring the laws and limits of visual perception.

Challenge some of your friend on who can stare the longest at some of the intriguing animated works of art without getting dizzy.

How do you see the world?

Find out how your perception compares to others by quickly testing yourself.

How do you compare?


Teen Buzz – Age Effects on Hearing

Get the original mosquito ringtone also known as TeenBuzz, the ultrasonic ringtone that most adults cannot hear. Many of these auditory frequencies are inaudible to people over the age of 30, enabling you to receive calls and text messages without for example your teachers (PSY 214 instructors excluded!) or parents knowing it.

This activity involves high frequency ring tones used by youths, which most adults cannot hear. The website provides a chart of downloadable tones from 8 kHz (everyone can hear), to higher frequency tones that only younger and younger age groups can typically hear. For example, the chart indicates those below 60 should hear the 10kHz tone, those below 40 should hear the 15 kHz tone, and on up to the 21-22 kHz tones that typically only those under 20 can hear.

Get The Chills – from listening to a Barber

Stereo sounds are impressive, but we can do better than that. Put on your headphones and enoy the insanely real “virtual barberhop”

Learn more about binaural recordings here.

One Square Inch – The Sound(s) of Silence

Learn more about nature’s biophony and noise pollution and enjoy some exquisite binaural nature recordings from one of the last places in the United State where human activities cannot be heard.

If you are interested To learn more about this “Acoustic Ecology”, check out the following NPR shows wwith:

Gordon Hempton (the “Soundtracker”)


Bernie Krause (“Wild Sanctuary”)

Auditory Illusions

Illusions reveal the brain’s assumptions. And, although they tend to steal the show, there are not just visual illusions.

Check out this tone that seems to rise in pitch indefinitely.

Or how about getting fooled into mishearing someone’s speech because of what you look at? 

(Your fingers and your nose are not immune to illusions either.)


Can you trust Wine ratings?

A wine researcher named Fréderic Brochet served 57 French wine experts two identical midrange Bordeaux wines, one in an expensive Grand Cru bottle, the other accommodated in the bottle of a cheap table wine. The gurus showed a significant preference for the Grand Cru bottle, employing adjectives like "excellent" more often for the Grand Cru, and "unbalanced," and "flat" more often for the table wine.[read more]