# Transcendental Music

June 28, 2011 10:22 AM Subscribe

Happy Tau Day! τ (2 × π, that is, 6.28...) is the number of radians in a turn. Translating the digits to notes even makes beautiful music. (By comparison, what pi sounds like). Previously.

It's not that pi is too mainstream, it's that mathematical expressions are less elegant using pi than using tau. Check out the "previously" link for more explanation.

posted by a snickering nuthatch at 10:29 AM on June 28, 2011

posted by a snickering nuthatch at 10:29 AM on June 28, 2011

This is just a manufactured holiday from the baking industry to try and get us to buy two pies.

I WILL DO THIS, BUT I WILL DO IT GRUDGINGLY!

posted by mazola at 10:32 AM on June 28, 2011 [13 favorites]

I WILL DO THIS, BUT I WILL DO IT GRUDGINGLY!

posted by mazola at 10:32 AM on June 28, 2011 [13 favorites]

Yeah? Well...you can't eat a Tau.

posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:32 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:32 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

*It's not that pi is too mainstream, it's that*

**some**mathematical expressions are less elegant using pi than using tauFixed that for you. For every "circumference = τ*r", there's also an "area = τ/2*r

^{2}."

posted by explosion at 10:33 AM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

*Translating the digits to notes even makes beautiful music*

I would phrase that more like "Suitably contrived force-mapping to triads and diatonic scales makes (at least after some careful postprocessing) tolerable sounds even when you feed it random digits", but that's just a stylistic change.

posted by Wolfdog at 10:33 AM on June 28, 2011 [13 favorites]

*For every "circumference = τ*r", there's also an "area = τ/2*r*

^{2}."Not to mention that "e

^{πi}= -1" looks a lot more elegant than "e

^{(τ/2)i}= -1".

I'd like to apologise for such hideous abuse of the <sup> and <sub> tags.

posted by ZsigE at 10:38 AM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

I'm holding out for 3π day on Sept 42.

posted by mazola at 10:41 AM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

posted by mazola at 10:41 AM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

*(By comparison, what pi sounds like).*

This is just a link to the best of Robert Fripp...

posted by griphus at 10:42 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

*For every "circumference = τ*r", there's also an "area = τ/2*r^2."*

I disagree that area = τ/2*r

^{2}is less elegant than area = pi*r

^{2}. The former fits in well with other equations of degree 2; e.g. distance = a/2*t

^{2}.

posted by a snickering nuthatch at 10:44 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I love this "tau controversy" because it's like a throwback to what arguments amongst the Pythagoreans must've been like. Well, with fewer people thrown off boats.

posted by Kattullus at 10:46 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by Kattullus at 10:46 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Why don't naysayers click the links? Like, ever?

(ps: we already know correlation is not causation)

posted by DU at 10:48 AM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

**YOUR OBJECTIONS HAVE BEEN THOUGHT OF BECAUSE PEOPLE AREN'T AS DUMB AS YOU SEEM TO BELIEVE.**(ps: we already know correlation is not causation)

posted by DU at 10:48 AM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

*a manufactured holiday. . .*

aka Internatlion Talk Like a Mathemetician Day:

*"Tau over two arrrrrrrr squared, 'Arkins me lad."*

posted by Herodios at 10:49 AM on June 28, 2011

I liked tau back when it was underground, on drugs, and throwing Fields medals from hotel room balconies.

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:52 AM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:52 AM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

As much as I love math, I feel like these days actually

posted by Eideteker at 10:56 AM on June 28, 2011

*lower*awareness.posted by Eideteker at 10:56 AM on June 28, 2011

In binary, you just move the point.

posted by Wolfdog at 10:59 AM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

posted by Wolfdog at 10:59 AM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

*Not to mention that "e*

^{πi}= -1" looks a lot more elegant than "e^{(τ/2)i}= -1".What sold me on τ was the fact that e

^{τi}= 1.

posted by vogon_poet at 11:09 AM on June 28, 2011 [7 favorites]

No offense,

posted by Wolfdog at 11:11 AM on June 28, 2011 [7 favorites]

*vogon_poet*, but your credibility on aesthetic matters is dubious.posted by Wolfdog at 11:11 AM on June 28, 2011 [7 favorites]

I'm torn. I mean, I really like pie, but I also really like General Tau's chicken.

I'm going to have to recuse myself, at least until after lunch.

posted by rocket88 at 11:11 AM on June 28, 2011

I'm going to have to recuse myself, at least until after lunch.

posted by rocket88 at 11:11 AM on June 28, 2011

*It's not that pi is too mainstream, it's that mathematical expressions are less elegant using pi than using tau.*

I appreciate the argument and have long been a fan of tau, but that 6.2831852-yadda-yadda stuff is untidy.

I think that not only will I be setting τ = 6 in all of my calculations but that it is necessary that I contact my state senator about necessary legislation.

posted by sebastienbailard at 11:28 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

The BBC News article on this is hilarious: 'Tau day' marked by opponents of maths constant pi

posted by metaBugs at 11:31 AM on June 28, 2011

*..."I like to describe myself as the world's leading anti-pi propagandist," said Michael Hartl, an educator and former theoretical physicist.*posted by metaBugs at 11:31 AM on June 28, 2011

At first I was all like, "The Greater Gooooooood!" and then I was all like, "maaaa~ath?!"

posted by Slackermagee at 11:38 AM on June 28, 2011

posted by Slackermagee at 11:38 AM on June 28, 2011

A friend of mine is a proponent of τ. But she was born on June 28 so she's a bit biased.

posted by madcaptenor at 11:56 AM on June 28, 2011

posted by madcaptenor at 11:56 AM on June 28, 2011

Is anyone else celebrating by watching the τ-ering Inferno?

posted by Eideteker at 12:33 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by Eideteker at 12:33 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Since this is apparently where we go to take sides, I'm pro τ.

posted by yeolcoatl at 12:51 PM on June 28, 2011

posted by yeolcoatl at 12:51 PM on June 28, 2011

*I'm torn. I mean, I really like pie, but I also really like General Tau's chicken.*

I'm going to have to recuse myself, at least until after lunch.

posted by rocket88

I'm going to have to recuse myself, at least until after lunch.

posted by rocket88

I need to change my dinner plans - General Tao's chicken and Pie - I don't need much of an excuse to eat either one.

posted by 445supermag at 12:59 PM on June 28, 2011

The spirit of the idea is correct, but the implementation is terrible. There are places that the symbol "τ" occurs already, and in the one I have in mind it's right next to pi. It's the nome, with is e^(pi i tau) if you're talking elliptic functions, but e^(2 pi i tau) if you're talking number theory (things like the Dedekind eta function).

posted by oonh at 2:08 PM on June 28, 2011

posted by oonh at 2:08 PM on June 28, 2011

oonh, pretty much any choice of Greek letter except omicron would cause a conflict somewhere.

Nobody loves omicron.

posted by madcaptenor at 2:24 PM on June 28, 2011

Nobody loves omicron.

posted by madcaptenor at 2:24 PM on June 28, 2011

yay, someone else mapped a bunch of numbers onto musical notes.

this ends up being more about the system you map onto rather than the number itself... if you want to make something meaningfully representational, you must escape all cultural constructs (like major/minor chords and scales). i wonder if someone could derive spectral information from tau or pi and make sounds like that...?

this is kind of like writing 12-tone music from a bunch of random people's phone numbers... which is really beside the point of writing music, right?

posted by teletype1 at 3:01 PM on June 28, 2011

this ends up being more about the system you map onto rather than the number itself... if you want to make something meaningfully representational, you must escape all cultural constructs (like major/minor chords and scales). i wonder if someone could derive spectral information from tau or pi and make sounds like that...?

this is kind of like writing 12-tone music from a bunch of random people's phone numbers... which is really beside the point of writing music, right?

posted by teletype1 at 3:01 PM on June 28, 2011

oonh: "

There are other places that the pi symbol occurs. The prime counting function. The product symbol (that's a capital pi). Osmotic pressure.

But the world survives.

posted by Plutor at 4:00 PM on June 28, 2011

*There are places that the symbol "τ" occurs already, and in the one I have in mind it's right next to pi.*"There are other places that the pi symbol occurs. The prime counting function. The product symbol (that's a capital pi). Osmotic pressure.

But the world survives.

posted by Plutor at 4:00 PM on June 28, 2011

*I would phrase that more like "Suitably contrived force-mapping to triads and diatonic scales makes (at least after some careful postprocessing) tolerable sounds even when you feed it random digits", but that's just a stylistic change.*

Presumably one could cook up, say, a Markov chain that generates music that sounds vaguely like, say, common practice harmony. (Someone has probably already done this.) Then use the digits of π or τ instead of actual random numbers as input to the simulation.

I imagine most rational numbers would sound pretty boring though.

posted by madcaptenor at 6:23 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

*if you want to make something meaningfully representational, you must escape all cultural constructs*

You'd want to escape the cultural construct of base 10, as well, so you'd just be mapping a real number onto… something. I can imagine getting a timbre out of that, but not a note or sequence of discrete notes, unless you reintroduce something as arbitrary as base-10 or the musical scales.

posted by hattifattener at 8:04 PM on June 28, 2011

Yes e^(i τ)=1, but so does e^0. Which makes it boring.

Also, a bit of specious math.

e^(i τ)=e^(i0)

log(e^(i τ)= log(e^(i0))

i τ = i 0

τ = 0

Anyway, forget both τ and π. e is the constant the deserves the love. It shows up in both in odder places and more often than π. What other constants can be derived in three completely unrelated (and relatively simple) ways?

posted by Hactar at 5:13 AM on June 29, 2011

Also, a bit of specious math.

e^(i τ)=e^(i0)

log(e^(i τ)= log(e^(i0))

i τ = i 0

τ = 0

Anyway, forget both τ and π. e is the constant the deserves the love. It shows up in both in odder places and more often than π. What other constants can be derived in three completely unrelated (and relatively simple) ways?

posted by Hactar at 5:13 AM on June 29, 2011

Yes, her pi is wrong, disclaimer duly noted:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jG7vhMMXagQ#t=0m12s

posted by klausman at 10:40 AM on June 29, 2011

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jG7vhMMXagQ#t=0m12s

posted by klausman at 10:40 AM on June 29, 2011

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