Physics of Hearing

MAR 07, 2017 | 10:00 AM TO 3:00 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue


4102: Science Center


March 07, 2017: 10:00 AM-3:00 PM




Initiative for the Theoretical Sciences and the Department of Physics


Physicists have been fascinated by our perception of sound since the foundational work of Helmholtz and Rayleigh, more than a century ago. How do we parse complex sounds into their component frequencies? How do we identify the location of a sound source? How are we able to respond reliably when our eardrums vibrate by less than the diameter of an atom? In this pair of lectures, we will explore recent progress on these problems, with examples ranging from insects to us. We will learn about how the active mechanics of the inner ear, poised near a critical point in its dynamics, can generate the remarkable nonlinearities of our perception, even of relatively faint sounds, and how these features can emerge independently of many microscopic details. We will see how nature exploits more macroscopic mechanical principles, in the many organisms where the two ears are internally coupled, to provide new paths for sound localization, shaping the computations done by the brain.

10:00 AM Coffee and bagels

10:30 AM A minimal model of cochlear dynamics Marcelo O. Magnasco, Rockefeller University

12:00 PM Lunch

1:30 PM Internally coupled ears (ICE): The cool part of sound localization J. Leo van Hemmen, Technical University of Munich