The Power of Conviction: I fell, but did not fail.

In 1988, my doctoral thesis on the  psychoacoustics of pitch and tone was rejected at London University. The work had challenged the psychophysical import of the string ratio theory of musical pitch intervals by Pythagoras around which turn all work in hearing. I demonstrated experimentally, and insisted that the string ratio theory concealed in it a fundamental mechanical error at the root of psychoacoustic failure in music and speech perception research. No one was inclined to listen. For me, it was a mighty fall.

My appeal against the decision of my examiners went through every level of authority in the United Kingdom up to HM Queen Elizabeth II, but all to no avail. In 1994, encouraged by favourable reviews of  the work by reputable academic peers, I took it to Sorbonne University, Paris III. I had to conduct the mechanical and perception experiments as well as acoustic analysis all over again under the supervision of my new mentors.  In February 2000, I appeared before a panel of six professors, all experts in music and speech perception research. My thesis was accepted and passed with honours.

I returned to London and set up my personal laboratory to develop the work to  the level of a universal theory of auditory perception. The outcome is my book “Sound Sources: The Origin of Auditory Sensations” (2019). On the platform of the unique psychophysical concept of invariance, Sound Sources establishes a  mechanical foundation to bolster Direct Auditory Perception. Sad to say that most hearing scientists ignore, or presumably are not acquainted with, the concept of invariance or its role in auditory psychophysics. Thus, theories and practices in hearing research without invariance hinge on effortless and random computations of mechanical and acoustic parameters in the search for auditory codes. But consider: Had Pythagoras posited an invariant parameter of a string as a stimulus to pitch, hearing theorists would aim for the way our perceptual system internalises that mechanical invariant as pitch. Therefore, we need the invariant correlate of pitch to understand what and how the auditory system extracts pitch from the stimulus flux. This, in turn, should help us address more complex stimuli such as speech. However, without invariance in the search for pitch, hearing research has traversed periods of mysticism and the occult, unrewarding scientific optimism, technological boom leading into an acoustic impasse wherein we pride ourselves upon progress in hearing research while repeating the same 2,500-year-old question: What is pitch? Obviously, we cannot do it without invariance.

Accordingly,  the introduction of invariance into current physical and mathematical foundation of acoustics, transforms hearing research from a purely physical science into a science of human behaviour. Scientists have awaited this contribution for 2,500 years! My recent appointment to a peer role by the American Journal of Physics and Applications offers me the great opportunity to bring this contribution to physicists, mathematicians, and technologists with the hope to benefit mankind in various ways.

Today, looking back at the past 40 years of my life, it is evident that the strength of my conviction stood the test of time. Although I had many who opposed me for various personal reasons, my  sympathisers at Sorbonne University, Paris, and the president of the Acoustical Society of Nigeria,  Nsukka, few they might be, always remind me that although I fell, I did not fail. With this in mind, I look forward to my time with the American Journal of Physics and Applications with optimism.

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