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Julien de Channes de Jouvancourt asks: Could Pythagoras Hear his Comma?

Both Eastern and Western cultures discovered over two thousand years ago that the mathematically defined musical circle of fifths doesn’t quite close after twelve iterations. The small musical difference is called the Pythagorean comma; and it is an important concept in music theory, tuning scales, number theory, and the physics of musical instruments. We examine whether or not it would have been technologically or physically possible for any individuals to actually hear this interval two millennia ago, with a goal to discern whether the Pythagorean comma was a real invention, or instead like the Greek atom, a philosophical lucky guess that would not be proved correct until modern times.

Julien is from northern California in the San Francisco Bay Area. He enjoys playing games, from role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons, to board games like Risk, and cards games such as Canasta. He wants to continue physics education through grad school for physics; he is currently leaning towards particle physics. Julien hopes to have a career doing research in academia. Julien’s advisor is Paul Stanley.

June 15, 2020

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