Brain Pickings

Mathemusician Vi Hart Explains Space-Time with a Music Box and a Möbius Strip


The fabric of the universe via backwards Bach.

If mathemusician Vi Hart — who for the past three years has been bringing whimsy to math with her mind-bending, playful, and illuminating stop-motion musical doodles — isn’t already your hero, she should be, and likely will be. (Cue in the GRAMMYs newly announced search for great music teachers.) In her latest gem, Hart uses music notation, a Möbius strip, and backwards Bach to explain space-time:

Music has two recognizable dimensions — one is time, and the other is pitch-space. … There [are] a few things to notice about written music: Firstly, that it is not music — you can’t listen to this. … It’s not music — it’s music notation, and you can only interpret it into the beautiful music it represents.

Also see Hart on the science of sound, frequency and pitch, and her blend of Victorian literature and higher mathematics to explain multiple dimensions.

For a decidedly less whimsical but enormously illuminating deeper dive, see these 7 essential books on time and watch Michio Kaku’s BBC documentary on the subject, then learn how to listen to music.

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