Harp not on that string, madam, that is past. —William Shakespeare, Richard III
You can harp not on that string at the Glasgow Science Centre, because the harp on display has no strings. It replaces them with thin beams of infrared light. Break a beam and a note plays. It's a bit like the sophisticated alarm systems you see in jewel-heist movies—you know, the ones in which the star has to wriggle and contort his way through a cross-hatch of infrared rays to reach the diamonds. Playing the infrared harp is considerably easier, though it's an odd experience to create music by plucking thin air.
That's my mom, who studied piano at Juilliard, skillfully playing the stringless harp in Glasgow in the video (top). This was the second harp-related moment of our British Isles trip. The first came in London, when we visited the former home of George Frideric Handel, the German-born Baroque composer. (Jimi Hendrix later lived in the adjacent flat.) Handel had a beautiful harpsichord, an instrument that got its name from the way it creates sound: Its strings are plucked, like those of a harp, rather than hammered, like those of a piano. Which raises the question: Shouldn't a piano be called a hammerchord?
One more illusion, from the Glasgow Science Centre: