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What’s the buzz?

June 18, 2013 11:00 AM

NIck Marinello
mr4@tulane.edu

cicada image

View a video about cicadas by Nick Marinello.


With all its half notes, quarter notes and dotted sixteenth notes, when it comes down to it, music is simply a pleasant way to divide up time.

That music is mathematical is not a new idea. In fact, it was around 2,500 years ago that the Greek mathematician Pythagoras first pointed out the connection. But then he saw math in everything, believing the physical world could be understood through mathematics.

In the ensuing centuries, scholars and philosophers have pondered the various interconnections between math, music and other numerical proclivities of the universe, but few have put it all together in such a concise package as has that most tuneful of insects, the cicada.

Cicadas, which each summer gather by the thousands to serenade the coming of evening, are obsessive about numbers, rigidly organizing their lives around cycles of varying lengths.

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