Mathemusician Vi Hart Explains the Space-Time Continuum With a Music Box, Bach, and a Möbius Strip

Vi Hart, the Khan Academy’s resident “Recreational Mathemusician” turns the space-time continuum into something that can be played forwards, backwards, upside down, in a circle, and on a Möbius strip.

How you ask?

Music. You know, that stuff that Shakespeare rhapsodized as the food of love?

The fast-talking Hart has way too much to prove in her less than eight minute video to waste time waxing poetic. To her, even the most elusive concepts are explainable, representable. She does manage to create some unintentionally lovely little melodies on a music box that reads holes punched through the notations on a tape printed with a musical stave.

It took several viewings for me to wrap my mind around what exactly was being demonstrated, but I think I’m beginning to grope my way toward whatever dimension she’s currently inhabiting. See if you can follow along and then weigh in as to what you think the mathematically-inclined Bach might be doing in his grave as Hart blithely feeds one of his compositions through her music box, upside down, and backwards.

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Ayun Halliday took piano lessons for years. All that remains are the opening bars to Hello Dolly. Follow her @AyunHalliday


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  1. christopher palermo says . . . | February 8, 2013 / 11:31 pm

    Very cool and exhilarating.

  2. rumplegaster says . . . | February 9, 2013 / 5:40 am

    Oddly, this one’s actually soothing in its simplicity! THANK YOU, Vi Hart!

  3. Sputters says . . . | February 9, 2013 / 9:39 am

    Nice fairy tale but I doubt anyone really knows how it all works.

  4. Jeffrey Ventrella says . . . | February 10, 2013 / 4:41 pm

    Cool. What a nice way to explain several overlapping concepts using everyday objects.

    I wonder if any composers have explored the concept of Mobius Music? (continuously-looping melodies that alternate between pitch inversions).

  5. Newcomb Greenleaf says . . . | June 12, 2013 / 6:21 pm

    What I found particularly interesting and moving was the final section where, after Vi the mathematician created the Möbius tape for the music box, Vi the musician proceded to make art of it by varying the tempo and pauses for aesthetic ends.

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