The square root of one

Numbers have been on my mind lately. So much so, they’re bloody everywhere.

This may be 1 reason, among 2 others, that I have only written 3 blog posts on this 5th month, which is one less than a half as many last month (8), and when summed is equal to the number of posts the month before (13). Which, when summed is 21, a far cry from the sum of the previous months (34), although together they equal 55 – which isn’t that bad really.

Now, if you like numbers like I do, you may have recognised that series of numbers above as the Fibonacci sequence. Want to know the crazy thing??? I didn’t make those numbers up – that statement is actually 100% correct!

By definition, the Fibonacci sequence are 0 and 1, and each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two.

F_n = F_{n-1} + F_{n-2},\!\,
In mathematical terms, the sequence Fn of Fibonacci numbers is defined by the recurrence relation

Fibonacci sequences appear everywhere in nature, such as

the branching of trees, the arrangement of leaves on a stem, the fruitlets of a pinapple, the flowering of an artichoke, an uncurling fern and the arrangement of a pine cone… (and even) the description of the reproduction of a population of idealised honeybees(!). (Wikipedia)

And now, even this blog. I didn’t plan this, honest. But damn, there is an undeniable elegance to it isn’t there? And that’s only one of the many things I love about numbers.

Disk florets of yellow chamomile (Anthemis tin...
Disk florets of yellow chamomile (Anthemis tinctoria) with spirals indicating the arrangement drawn in. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This blog is about songs. Songs are the systematic layering of words over the numerical architecture of music. And music, has its basis in maths. Without the numerical boundaries of time, rhythm and meter, music would be impossible. Is there any wonder that the word “Rhyme” looks so much like the word “rhythm”?

Ironically, or perhaps thankfully, there are only a handful of good songs about maths. The ones I know though, I tend to like. I’ll leave you with one at the end of this post.

All of this made me think of Daniel Tammet, a prodigious savant famous for his incredible memory and mental abilities. One of his feats of prowess was to recite Pi to over 22,514 places from memory in over 5 hours without making a single error on Pi day (March 14th, obviously). He’s also able to deduce the weekday of your birthdate from your date of birth, in a matter of seconds.

Tammet, also known as the “Boy with the Incredible Brain”, recognises that each positive integer up to 10,000 has its own unique shape, colour, texture and feel.

Think about that for a moment. Tammet is actually recognising numbers the way you and I might recognise faces. Can you imagine what that would be like? To know them, as friends, or worse, enemies?

He can intuitively “see” results of calculations as synaesthetic landscapes without using conscious mental effort and can “sense” whether a number is prime or composite.

How Tammet might see the number “one” – like a big bang, white and shining

The picture on the right is artist Jerome Tabet’s representation of how Tammet sees the number “one”.

In other words, Tammet looks at numbers the way you and I look at objects, which is staggering.

He has described his visual image of 289 as particularly ugly, 333 as particularly attractive, and Pi as beautiful.

The number six apparently has no distinct image yet what he describes as an almost small nothingness, or “like a black hole, a place to climb into, a retreat from the world”.

Becky imagines Tammet answering “I’m feeling a bit six today :(” after being asked how he’s doing…

For Tammet, his visualisation of “six” is opposite to “nine”, which he calls large and towering.

Becky is amazed by your overwhelming nineness!

He has described 25 as energetic and the “kind of number you would invite to a party”… 25s, you know who you are! 😉

When he was interviewed on Late Night, he told David Letterman that he looks like 117, a very handsome, tall, lanky and a little bit wobbly. Notice that to Tammet, Letterman looks like his old friend 117, not the other way around.

My gentle friend Arawn who makes me think of Tammet’s number eighty-nine, introduced me to this little gem called Math & Emotion by Klangstabil, a German Electronica/Industrial Project.

He plays it as his outro to his sets at the KamaSutra. On Wednesday night, I told him that I really liked the song, and that it made me think of “loss”.

He said something like, yes, it is about loss, and how logic can sometimes not explain it.

Hrrmph. So much for numbers…

show me the master – in math and emotion
how to subtract – love from distortion?
how to add – death and peace
if you find the formula – i´ll get release

did you know – the common denominator?
is the creature – greater than the creator?
we created numbers – to seize soldiers and land
but you can´t say in numbers – the loss of a friend

is there a structure – all depends on?
what is the reason, – the total, the sum?
is there a teacher? – cos maybe i´m wrong?
can´t be all – the square root of one?

4 thoughts on “The square root of one

  1. You have an extraordinary mind, Becky. I like numbers and math too. I love the number three and zero (origin) and eight (representing the infinity symbol). Vid is wild and post is Amazing.


    1. It was nuts when I saw that sequence in my posts per month… I could hardly believe it. So strange when things like that happen. It reminds me of the “numbers” from Lost. Which is one of the aspects of that series that intrigued me the most; that is until they completely abandoned any hope of explaining it 🙂


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