This I Believe

Knudsen, Vern Oliver

  • Vern Knudsen, Dean of the graduate division at UCLA, explains uses his work in acoustics and science as the basis for his belief in the importance of honesty, truth, and integrity to live a good, happy life, and also provides an example from the field of acoustics to demonstrate his point.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Vern O. Knudsen is one of the world's foremost experts in acoustics, the science of sound. His activities in this field and his job as dean of UCLA's graduate division make him a very busy man, but he still finds time for his hobby of music. This seems nicely appropriate, since his studies of acoustics in the theaters and concert halls all over the world have added much to the enjoyment of listening to music. Here is Verne Knudsen's creed.
I believe that a chief purpose of life is to seek the
truth because he who seeks and finds the truth finds also joy and freedom. My acceptance in youth of this belief was based on faith in the teachings of home, church, and school. But numerous experiences in my adult life have demonstrated the joy and freedom that come from the successful pursuit of truth. I shall cite one example from my researches in acoustics that is typical of the scientific method of searching for the truth.
In the series of measurements of the reverberation of sound in a new laboratory, it was found, contrary to existing beliefs, that the reverberation of sound
depends greatly upon the temperature and humidity of the air. The pursuit of this truth led to the discovery that collisions between oxygen and water molecules in the air result in the absorption of sound by amount that can be accurately calculated in terms of the temperature and humidity of the air. This made it possible to control the experiments in such a way as to be free from the vagaries of the weather and to predict how the propagation of sound is affected by temperature and humidity.
I believe that we must suspect and scrutinize that which is presented to us last and most frequently.
This belief has been strengthened by numerous findings in my study of acoustics. For example, listen to these two sounds produced here simply by clapping my hands twice in rapid succession. [Sound of two hand claps.] Most of you will agree that the second clap was louder than the first. It actually was about three decibels greater. The average listener can detect the difference of about one decibel when the two sounds are presented in immediate succession. If there is a lapse of only a few seconds between the two sounds, the one must exceed the other by five or six decibels in order to be recognized as the louder. And as the time interval between the two sounds increases,
the greater must be the difference in their decibel levels in order to know which was the louder, unless--and this is important to demagogues and propagandists--unless we hear them again and again.
If we are to be strong and worthy enough to continue our inheritance of this good land, truly the most favored and abundant portion of the planet Earth, we must constantly seek and find the truth in the best books, in the best sermons, in the best forums, and especially in our own very best thinking. And when we find that truth, we must believe in it and act by it. If I know the truth, feel the truth, and act by the truth, I shall not be swayed by demagoguery, as are reeds in the wind; I shall not be molded by the latest and the mostest, as is clay in the potter's
hands. Rather I fervently believe I shall know where I am going, I shall reach my goal, and I shall find joy and piece of mind in the going.
Throughout my life I have continued to believe in the sermon on the mount, in Paul's sermon to the Corinthians on faith, hope, and charity; in the dying but immortal words of Socrates; in the Chinese graces of kindness and high-mindedness. Finally I believe in honesty but not merely in honesty as the best policy. Unless honesty is honorable, unless it is based on something more substantial than expediency, it has lost much of its virtue and is not worthy of the good life.
Those the beliefs of Dr. Vern O. Knudsen of Los Angeles, an educator and scientist with a strong devotion to truth.