Archive for June 26th, 2010

Good Morning Starshine

The ancients associated celestial bodies with music: Pythagoras perceived in the movements of the sun, the moon, and the planets a sort of music; Johannes Kepler defined a connection between geometry, cosmology, astrology, and harmonics in this musica universalis. Some Hindu traditions, having adopted Pythagoras, associate the Western “music of the spheres” with what they call the “audible life stream,” which is the “sound current vibrating in all creation,” and which can be “heard by the inner ears.”

I once possessed a fascinating but extremely dense book by an Indian scientist/mystic, with an endless and unpronounceable name, that posited that all creation could be understood through music, as an expression of mathematics. Although I am fine with basic arithmetic, beyond that numbers tend to Make Me Scared, and as this tome was littered with equations, after several attempts I put the thing aside, figuring I’d return to it when I was older, presumably wiser, and, uh, braver. So of course the book is now long lost, gone missing for nearly three decades, and has resisted all efforts at replacement. So I guess I’ll never “get it.” Oh well. “Poo-tee-weet?” as Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five songbird would say.

Then again—to zoom off on yet another tangent, and so utterly smother the “lead” to this piece—Felipe Fernandez-Armesto in Truth says that none of those Scary Numbers are even really real, for “[t]hough many philosophers have tried, none has ever come up with decisive arguments in favor of the reality of any numbers except one and infinity.” So there’s either one, or all. Though of course both are actually the same. ; )

Anyway. When European human beings blundered eyes wide shut into the “Enlightenment,” such notions as the involvement of celestial bodies in making music were dismissed as balderdash. And that was the preferred wisdom until very recently. Now, though, we know that the universe is singing in B flat. And this week came news that astronomers at Sheffield University have discovered that our own sun is singing as well.


When I Worked

June 2010
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