The joy of the unexpected

January 27, 2020
 by Paul McGowan

Before astronomer Edwin Hubble’s 1929 bombshell proof that the universe was expanding, its fixed relationships were unquestioned. Even Einstein resisted the notion of an expanding universe despite the fact his equations clearly predicted it. He once famously said to the Dutch astronomer Willem de Sitter, “the math is right, but your physics must be wrong”. Years later even Einstein had to admit both the math and physics were correct, calling the expanding universe one of the most beautiful ideas of all times.

It was hard enough for those early pioneers to accept the idea of an expanding universe because it implied our universe had a beginning, something few wanted to contemplate. Worse, was what was next to come.

Just as a baseball thrown eventually slows, so too must the expanding universe—at least that’s what they assumed. That constant was shattered when, in 1998, the Supernova Cosmology Project and the High-Z Supernova Search Team independently came to the opposite conclusion. The universe’s expansion is accelerating.

Mind-boggling stuff.

What’s attractive to me is the joy these scientists find in the unexpected. In every case, these engineering minded people were determinedly heading down one path only to find themselves deep within the unknown.

We experience the same unexpected joys in our own small world when we apply one set of knowns to a circuit and hear something totally unexpected: when our measuring equipment says one thing and our ears tell us a different story. That’s when the wonder of the unknown warms our hearts and souls.

It’s the unexpected pleasures in life that bring us the greatest joy.

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9 comments on “The joy of the unexpected”

  1. Have read a lot about MQA but never quite understood what it really meant. Mr. Harley’s articles were not very clear. Your very clear and concise explanation really makes things clear. Based on the fact that more one plays with information more changes one introduces in it could not be good for fidelity much as some may like it. Based on this the positive response from the majority of reviewers reminds me of the response to perfect sound forever. Like I said a long time ago you would have made a very good teacher. Regards.

  2. Without getting into the sound or politics of MQA, my humble opinion is that it attempts to solve a problem that doesn’t (or soon won’t) exist -at lease in terms of solving a bandwidth problem. Every other month or so, our ISP, sends me a notification that our download speeds have been increased, and I have no issues streaming hi-res files via Qobuz. And in a few years the 5G rollout will blow current internet speeds away and bring incredible bandwidth to all of our hand-held gizmos.

  3. I’m in the same camp as you Paul, even though I subscribe to both Tidal and Qobuz. I do so for content considerations. MQA does something I can’t quite put into words. All I can really say is that the same track on Qobuz is more pleasing to my ear. I don’t buy the whole "it saves bandwidth" argument either. MQA might be good for those with satellite internet or low bandwidth caps but that isn’t a consideration for most people.

  4. 1. No one hears the frequencies in question
    2. If the ultrasonic frequencies are changing the audible frequencies, then the audible frequencies are already changed in the recording, so we do not need to record/reproduce the ultrasonic frequencies to hear that re-modulation/interference, or whatever one would like to call this effect.
    3. In Digital, the advantage of higher sample rates (or DSD) is not the ability to reproduce ultrasonics, it is in that less destructive filters can be used both in the A/D during recording and the D/A during playback. 44.1 KHz demands basically impossible filters to actually reproduce the analog waveform and filter design for 44.1 KHz sample rate is always a compromise. In other words, with higher sample rates, the filters can both have better stop band rejection and preserve phase information more accurately in the audible band.
    4. Basically no tweeters reproduce much above 30 KHz anyway, and their response at that level is pretty bad. So I do not worry about reproduction at these frequencies. Tweeter response curves are in their data sheets and easily verifiable.

  5. Are speakers able to convert ultrasonic frequency into sound energy although it cannot be heard ?
    Would a ribbon be able to vibrate this fast being a mechanical device ?
    And can ultrasonics be felt on the human body ?

  6. I’m in the same camp as you Paul, even though I subscribe to both Tidal and Qobuz. I do so for content considerations. MQA does something I can’t quite put into words. All I can really say is that the same track on Qobuz is more pleasing to my ear. I don’t buy the whole "it saves bandwidth" argument either. MQA might be good for those with satellite internet or low bandwidth caps but that isn’t a consideration for most people.

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