Piano Guys at Palace


Staff Reports

The Piano Guys Bring Christmas Together at the Palace Theatre December 5

The Piano Guys became an internet sensation by way of their immensely successful series of strikingly original, self-made music videos that showcase their highly innovative blending of classical and pop. They’ve created more than 65 since joining forces in early 2011, including an innovative, 10-handed version of One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” that became an internet phenomenon and led to the release of their self-titled debut album in 2012. The Piano Guys are currently touring in support of their seventh studio album, Christmas Together.

CAPA presents The Piano Guys: Christmas Together at the Palace Theatre (34 W. Broad St.) on Wednesday, December 5, at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $50-$178 at the CAPA Ticket Center (39 E. State St.), all Ticketmaster outlets, and www.ticketmaster.com. To purchase tickets by phone, please call (614) 469-0939 or (800) 745-3000.

The Piano Guys consists of only one piano player, Jon Schmidt, and one other instrumentalist, Steven Sharp Nelson, on cello. Yet the other two – Paul Anderson and Al van der Beek – are equally significant members of the group. Their name comes from Anderson’s piano store in St. George, Utah, which was called The Piano Guys. Looking for an alternative to low-yield, conventional advertising, Anderson devised a Facebook promotional page and YouTube channel featuring the most famous pianist he could find – local pianist, Jon Schmidt. A self-described “New Age Classical” player, Schmidt was indeed well-established locally, thanks to eight albums and seven piano books of his song transcriptions. He also performed concerts throughout Utah, one of which featured a young guest artist, Steven Sharp Nelson, who adventurously combined traditional cello playing with percussion effects.

When Nelson moved from Salt Lake City to the suburb of Sandy, providence, if not serendipity, intervened. Al van der Beek, who came from a musical family and played several instruments and sang, lived down the street from Nelson’s new place and helped him move. “I suggested we ‘collaborate’ sometime and he hesitated because I think he didn’t want to disappoint me if I was horrible!” says van der Beek, laughing. “But,” says Nelson, “I checked out his home studio and started playing some of my unfinished songs, and he told me what the titles should be and their meaning – and finished them on the spot! The guy is music incarnate!” In The Piano Guys, van der Beek is charged with the studio operations, as well as co-writing and some vocal texturing, music arranging, “and a lot of percussion work,” adds Nelson.

Anderson was so taken by the music of Schmidt and Nelson that he closed his store at the end of 2011 in order to devote himself to the group, which only became a full-time operation in February 2012.

The spectacular The Piano Guys videos have so far netted more than 1.2 billion YouTube views (their YouTube channel also has more than 5.4 million subscribers) and their Facebook page has more than 4.6 million fans.

“We try to put a ‘wow factor’ in every video,” says Anderson, promising that future videos for The Piano Guys tracks will likewise factor in plenty of wow. “We love showcasing the beauty of the earth—where people don’t expect to find classical instruments,” says Anderson.

With van der Beek’s studio prowess together with the inventive cinematography of Anderson, Schmidt and Nelson have forged a fresh approach to the growing classical crossover fusion of classical and pop music that in their case has connected quietly but emotionally with a massive audience.


The Ohio Arts Council helped fund this program with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, education excellence, and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans. CAPA also appreciates the generous support of the Barbara B. Coons and Robert Bartels Funds of The Columbus Foundation and the Greater Columbus Arts Council.

About CAPA

Owner/operator of downtown Columbus’ magnificent historic theatres (Ohio Theatre, Palace Theatre, Southern Theatre) and manager of the Riffe Center Theatre Complex, Lincoln Theatre, Drexel Theatre, Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts (New Albany, OH), and the Shubert Theater (New Haven, CT), CAPA is a non-profit, award-winning presenter of national and international performing arts and entertainment. For more information, visit www.capa.com.

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center: A late El Nin᷉o could influence the winter season

Get Ready Ohio! Winter Safety Awareness Week is Nov. 11-17

COLUMBUS, OH — According to the annual National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Winter Outlook, there is a 70-75 percent chance of El Nin᷉o forming over the next couple of months and lasting through this winter. What does that mean? The winter season will start off mild for most of the region before colder weather hits in January and February.

According to NOAA, El Nin᷉o is an ocean-atmosphere climate interaction that is linked to periodic warming in sea surface temperatures in central and eastern Pacific equator.

Ohio experienced winter like weather last month, with freezing temperatures, frost, and in the northern counties, snow. Ohioans are encouraged to prepare early for the upcoming winter season.

In a coordinated effort, Gov. John R. Kasich and the Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness (OCSWA) recognize November 11-17 as Winter Safety Awareness Week. During this week, Gov. Kasich encourages individuals to update their safety plans, replenish supplies in their emergency kits, and prepare themselves, their vehicles and property for winter-related incidents.

“Winter Safety Awareness Week is the perfect time for all of us to check our supplies and start preparing our homes and vehicles for winter,” said Ohio EMA Executive Director Sima Merick. “Remember – winter safety isn’t just being prepared for cold, snow and ice. In February of this year, 22 counties received a federal disaster declaration for flooding. So, during this week, check your homeowners or renters insurance. Consider purchasing flood insurance. Prepare for severe weather now, before winter officially begins.”

OCSWA recommends the following winter preparedness tips:

Practice fire safety and prevention. With winter months and the holiday season, people are indoors more, and cook, decorate and entertain more – which unfortunately, can lead to more home fires. The best protection is to have working smoke detectors in the home. Test your smoke detectors monthly. Conduct fire drills. Change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors twice a year – when you change your clocks, change your batteries. Have auxiliary heaters, furnaces and fireplaces checked or serviced before using. Cooking-related fires are the number one cause of home fires. Never leave cooking food unattended. Keep towels, potholders, and paper products away from the stove’s heat sources.

Prepare your home for winter. Remove and cut away low-hanging and dead tree branches. Strong winds, ice and snow can cause tree limbs to break and could cause damage to your home. Have your gutters cleaned. Snow and ice can build up quickly if clogged with debris.

Prepare winter emergency supplies kits for the home and vehicle. Check the expiration dates on nonperishable food items, bottled water/beverages and medications. Winter emergency kits should include flashlights, extra batteries, blankets, coats, hats, gloves, a battery-operated radio/weather radio, first aid kit, cell phone and charger, and enough nonperishable food and water (one gallon per person, per day) to sustain every household member for several days. Store food, bottled water and supplies for your pets, as well.

Check on your neighbors. Comprehensive preparedness requires communities to participate in a “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” approach. If severe weather is forecast or has just occurred, or if your neighborhood has an extended power outage, check on your neighbors and family members – especially those who are older or have functional needs – to ensure that they are okay and that they have the resources to stay safe and warm. Your communication plan might include exchanging phone numbers to call during times of need.

The Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness is comprised of 16 local, state and federal agencies and organizations. For additional information on winter weather safety and severe weather preparedness, visit OCSWA’s website: www.weathersafety.ohio.gov.

LCV Victory Fund Congratulates Sherrod Brown

More than $800,000 investment helped secure Ohio for Brown

Washington D.C. – LCV Victory Fund congratulates Sherrod Brown for winning reelection to the U.S. Senate. LCV Victory Fund invested more than $800,000 in the U.S. Senate race, primarily on door-to-door canvassing through the New American Jobs Fund.

“Sherrod Brown works hard for our environment and our economy,” said Gene Karpinski, LCV President. “He’s a champion for clean energy jobs and protecting the Great Lakes, and we look forward to continuing to work with him and the entire Ohio delegation.”

Brown’s opponent, Jim Renacci, was named to LCV Victory Fund’s iconic Dirty Dozen because of his record of siding with polluters over Ohio. The New American Jobs Fund field program — a partnership with the United Steelworkers (USW) Works — knocked on more than 175,000 doors and sent over 90,000 pieces of mail supporting Brown.

LCV’s GreenRoots member mobilization program also turned out voters for both Brown and 1st congressional district candidate Aftab Pureval as part of a nationwide field program that engaged nearly 1,500 volunteers.

Environmental donors contributed over $925,000 to Ohio candidates, including over $325,000 to Brown’s campaign via GiveGreen. GiveGreen — a partnership between LCV Victory Fund, NextGen America and the NRDC Action Fund PAC that helps grassroots donors directly contribute to pro-environment candidates — raised a record $21 million for the 2018 cycle.

LCV Action Fund endorsed Brown and Pureval because of their commitments to fighting for clean air and water. LCV Action Fund also endorsed Ken Harbaugh and Danny O’Connor.

Conservation Ohio and related entities invested $3.3 million to elect Richard Cordray governor and support a slate of pro-conservation candidates.

The Conversation

Experiments with optical tweezers race to test the laws of quantum mechanics

November 7, 2018


Mishkat Bhattacharya

Associate Professor in the School of Astronomy, Rochester Institute of Technology

Nick Vamivakas

Associate Professor of Quantum Optics & Quantum Physics, University of Rochester

Disclosure statement: Mishkat Bhattacharya receives funding from the Office of Naval Research, United States.

Nick Vamivakas receives funding from the Office of Naval Research, United States.

Partners: Rochester Institute of Technology provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

One might think that the optical tweezer – a focused laser beam that can trap small particles – is old hat by now. After all, the tweezer was invented by Arthur Ashkin in 1970. And he received the Nobel Prize for it this year – presumably after its main implications had been realized during the last half-century.

Amazingly, this is far from true. The optical tweezer is revealing new capabilities while helping scientists understand quantum mechanics, the theory that explains nature in terms of subatomic particles.

This theory has led to some weird and counterintuitive conclusions. One of them is that quantum mechanics allows for a single object to exist in two different states of reality at the same time. For example, quantum physics allows a body to be at two different locations in space simultaneously – or both dead and alive, as in the famous thought experiment of Schrödinger’s cat.

The technical name for this phenomenon is superposition. Superpositions have been observed for tiny objects like single atoms. But clearly, we never see a superposition in our everyday lives. For example, we do not see a cup of coffee in two locations at the same time.

To explain this observation, theoretical physicists have suggested that for large objects – even for nanoparticles containing about a billion atoms –superpositions collapse quickly to one or the other of the two possibilities, due to a breakdown of standard quantum mechanics. For larger objects the rate of collapse is faster. For Schrodinger’s cat, this collapse – to “alive” or “dead” – would be practically instantaneous, explaining why we never see the superposition of a cat being in two states at once.

Until recently, these “collapse theories,” which would require modifications of textbook quantum mechanics, could not be tested, as it is difficult to prepare a large object in a superposition. This is because larger objects interact more with their surroundings than atoms or subatomic particles – which leads to leaks in heat that destroys quantum states.

As physicists, we are interested in collapse theories because we would like to understand quantum physics better, and specifically because there are theoretical indications that the collapse could be due to gravitational effects. A connection between quantum physics and gravity would be exciting to find, since all of physics rests on these two theories, and their unified description – the so-called Theory of Everything – is one of the grand goals of modern science.

Enter the optical tweezer

Optical tweezers exploit the fact that light can exert pressure on matter. Although the radiation pressure from even an intense laser beam is quite small, Ashkin was the first person to show that it was large enough to support a nanoparticle, countering gravity, effectively levitating it.

In 2010 a group of researchers realized that such a nanoparticle held by an optic tweezer was well-isolated from its environment, since it was not in contact with any material support. Following these ideas, several groups suggested ways to create and observe superpositions of a nanoparticle at two distinct spatial locations.

An intriguing scheme proposed by the groups of Tongcang Li and Lu Ming Duan in 2013 involved a nanodiamond crystal in a tweezer. The nanoparticle does not sit still within the tweezer. Rather, it oscillates like a pendulum between two locations, with the restoring force coming from the radiation pressure due to the laser. Further, this diamond nanocrystal contains a contaminating nitrogen atom, which can be thought of as a tiny magnet, with a north (N) pole and a south (S) pole.

The Li-Duan strategy consisted of three steps. First, they proposed cooling the motion of the nanoparticle to its quantum ground state. This is the lowest energy state this type of particle can have. We might expect that in this state the particle stops moving around and does not oscillate at all. However, if that happened, we would know where the particle was (at the center of the tweezer), as well how fast it was moving (not at all). But simultaneous perfect knowledge of both position and speed is not allowed by the famous Heisenberg uncertainty principle of quantum physics. Thus, even in its lowest energy state, the particle moves around a little bit, just enough to satisfy the laws of quantum mechanics.

Second, the Li and Duan scheme required the magnetic nitrogen atom to be prepared in a superposition of its north pole pointing up as well as down.

Finally, a magnetic field was needed to link the nitrogen atom to the motion of the levitated diamond crystal. This would transfer the magnetic superposition of the atom to the location superposition of the nanocrystal. This transfer is enabled by the fact that the atom and the nanoparticle are entangled by the magnetic field. It occurs in the same way that the superposition of the decayed and not-decayed radioactive sample is converted to the superposition of Schrodinger’s cat in dead and alive states.

Proving the collapse theory

What gave this theoretical work teeth were two exciting experimental developments. Already in 2012 the groups of Lukas Novotny and Romain Quidant showed that it was possible to cool an optically levitated nanoparticle to a hundredth of a degree above absolute zero – the lowest temperature theoretically possible – by modulating the intensity of the optical tweezer. The effect was the same as that of slowing a child on a swing by pushing at the right times.

In 2016 the same researchers were able to cool to a ten-thousandth of a degree above absolute zero. Around this time our groups published a paper establishing that the temperature required for reaching the quantum ground state of a tweezed nanoparticle was around a millionth of a degree above absolute zero. This requirement is challenging, but within reach of ongoing experiments.

The second exciting development was the experimental levitation of a nitrogen-defect-carrying nanodiamond in 2014 in Nick Vamivakas’s group. Using a magnetic field, they were also able to achieve the physical coupling of the nitrogen atom and the crystal motion required by the third step of the Li-Duan scheme.

The race is now on to reach the ground state so that – according to the Li-Duan plan – an object at two locations can be observed collapsing into a single entity. If the superpositions are destroyed at the rate predicted by the collapse theories, quantum mechanics as we know it will have to be revised.

The Conversation

Concussion prevention: Sorting through the science to see what’s sound

November 7, 2018


James Smoliga

Professor of Physiology, Department of Physical Therapy, High Point University

Disclosure statement

James Smoliga does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

As his helmet collided violently with his opponent’s shoulder, Luke Kuechly looked like a life-size bobblehead doll. In an instant, the Carolina Panthers star linebacker suffered yet another concussion. His season, and perhaps career, was in jeopardy.

A few weeks earlier, Kuechly began wearing an experimental collar around his neck designed to protect his brain from within. The device, known as the Q-Collar and previously sold as NeuroShield, is designed to mimic the woodpecker’s method of injury protection by keeping more blood inside the skull to create a “bubble wrap” effect around the brain.

So, why didn’t this nature-inspired safety equipment avert Luke Kuechly’s 2017 concussion, which apparently he still wears?

As a physiologist and sports medicine researcher, I study how the body responds to exercise and other stressors. I also study ways to prevent and treat sports injuries. As the public learns more about the potential long-term dangers of contact sports, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), parents, athletes and sports organizations are desperate to find a quick fix to the concussion crisis. Unfortunately, I do not think there is an easy solution to make inherently high-risk sports safe.

The high altitude argument

Back in 2014, a friend told me about a study which reported that NFL players were 20-30 percent less likely to sustain a concussion in games played at “higher” altitudes. The researchers theorized that higher altitude caused a slight swelling in the brain, and consequently increased brain volume.

This “tighter fit” inside the skull would reduce brain “slosh” during impacts to reduce the likelihood of concussions. Since higher altitude seemed to protect the brain, they argued, it would be beneficial to replicate this “tighter fit.” The authors proposed this could be achieved by applying slight pressure on the neck’s jugular veins to trap a bit more blood inside the brain. A few years earlier, a member of their research team filed a patent for such a device – a jugular compression collar.

While those less familiar with physiology may have been persuaded by this fascinating-sounding explanation, my fellow researcher, Gerald Zavorsky, and I thought this idea was scientifically implausible. Most importantly, the study defined “higher altitude” as anything above a meager 600 feet above sea level – way too low to have any effect on brain volume. Essentially, our brain volume stays remarkably constant at high altitude, even when we may feel short of breath or lightheaded. In the “Mile High City” of Denver, which houses the highest NFL stadium in the country at 5,280 feet above sea level, you would be hard-pressed to experience even a miniscule swelling in the brain. However, at much higher elevations, there is actually an increased likelihood for brain swelling which causes a life-threatening emergency called high altitude cerebral edema.

A game of chance

If altitude does not cause a protective increase in brain volume, then why were concussions reduced in NFL games played at greater than 600 feet above sea level? To answer this question, we examined the same publicly available NFL data set. The original study looked at data from two combined seasons (2012 and 2013), but we analyzed a few additional years. We confirmed that concussion rate was indeed statistically reduced at “higher” altitudes during the 2013 season, but not in the 2012 season. We dug deeper and found no connection between altitude and concussions in the 2014 or 2015 seasons. A separate study in college athletes showed concussions were even more likely at “higher” altitude.

Since the effect wasn’t consistent and repeatability is a major problem in all of science, we suspected the original linkages were due to random chance – a mathematical artifact of using a huge data set of nearly 1500 gridiron giants literally butting heads with one another on a weekly basis. If that was the case, we might expect that something completely arbitrary to also be associated with a reduced risk of concussion. And, indeed our analysis demonstrated that is true. It turns out that NFL teams with animal logos, such as the Miami Dolphins, also had a 20-30 percent reduced risk of concussion compared to teams without animal logos, such as the Pittsburgh Steelers, regardless of game altitude.

Based on our analysis, we concluded that random chance, not physiological response, explains why concussions were less likely at altitudes above 600 feet. Thus, an altitude-mimicking collar seems unjustified for preventing concussions.

The woodpecker theory

Supposedly, the Q-Collar also replicates how woodpeckers naturally protect themselves from headaches. According to company information, woodpeckers compress their jugular vein using their neck muscles to induce “tighter fit” and reduce brain “slosh.” While this amazing-sounding mechanism is often presented as a fact, it does not seem to be mentioned anywhere in over a century of scientific studies examining woodpeckers.

I thoroughly examined all of the woodpecker papers I could find, and then tracked down all of their references, and repeated the process. I discovered ornithology papers from the 1700s through cutting-edge engineering models of woodpecker biomechanics, but none mentioned jugular compression. Thus, it is not surprising that the company does not cite any scientific references to woodpecker literature.

Even if this mechanism does exist and has been somehow overlooked by woodpecker researchers, evolution gave the woodpecker numerous unique protective adaptations. I teamed up with a woodpecker researcher and published a summary of these mechanisms in October 2018. These include a specialized skull bone structure and a shock-absorbing beak. Woodpeckers even use very specific postures and movements to brace themselves, which helps to dissipate force away from their brains. We concluded that these multiple protective mechanisms work in harmony, which cannot be replicated by simply pushing on one’s jugular vein.

New research suggests that woodpeckers may indeed experience brain injuries similar to those seen in humans. Regardless, the physics of woodpecker drumming are quite different than that of sports concussions, which generally happen with unpredictable timing, and involve considerable head rotation. Despite its intuitive appeal, I believe that a woodpecker-mimicking collar is more pseudoscience than innovation.

Beyond sports concussions

As my colleagues and I have been debunking the scientific rationale for the Q-Collar, research examining the Q-Collar seems to have shifted from reducing the risk of concussions, or distinct events following a single hit, to a less tangible goal of reducing brain damage from repeated subconcussive impacts.

New research claims evidence of benefit, based on MRI data. As one article stated in 2016, the collar “may have provided a protective effect against brain microstructural changes after repetitive head impacts.” An article published in October 2018 from a small study showed that the brains of female soccer players who wore collars for a season seemingly showed no brain damage. Those who did not wear the collar did show small changes in some areas of their brain.

However, some other researchers have expressed concerns over the small numbers of subjects and the high dropout rates in similar studies about the collar. Some physicians have concluded that this evidence is not enough to suggest that it does protect the brain from injury and current promotional campaigns are “potentially misleading.” I also remain skeptical of these findings, since the clinical utility of this particular type of MRI data remains unclear, especially in relation to long-term health.

As the company aims for FDA approval and looks beyond sports applications, I fear that long-term brain health is being placed in equipment justified by misunderstandings of physiology, coincidental relationships, and yes, even what I’ve concluded are incorrect claims about woodpeckers and other animals.

Some may argue that even if it does not work, there is no harm in adding an extra layer of protection. However, I believe this is a dangerous attitude. When athletes feel they are more protected, they have a false sense of extra safety and play more aggressively. This may actually increase risk of injury.

As Luke Kuechly and others can attest, even innovative-sounding equipment cannot stop concussions in contact sports. Unfortunately, we may not know if long-term brain damage can actually be limited by new technologies until it is too late.


Staff Reports