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No. 94: Jul-Aug 1994

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Music And Theories Of Everything

Warning: We never promised that Science Frontiers would be easy or even compatible with your world view! Furthermore, archeology is more than shards and arrowheads.

Today's physicists enjoy speculating about Theories of Everything, but they really don't nean everything ! They just mean physics and cosmology. Some 5,000 years ago, the Sumerians constructed a remarkable Theory of Everything based upon music, a base-60 number system, and symmetry concepts. These Sumerians didn't have supercomputers but they were able to incorporate into their theory much more than physics and cosmology. Below, E.G. McClain provides some insight into ancient Sumerian thinking:

"In ancient Mesopotania,music, mathematics, art, science, religion, and poetic fantasy were fused. Around 3000 B.C., the Sumerians simultaneously developed cuneiform writing, in which they recorded their pantheon, and a base-60 number system. Their gods were assigned numbers that encoded the primary ratios of music, with the gods' functions corresponding to their numbers in acoustical theory. Thus the Sumerians created an extensive tonal/arithmetical model for the cosmos. In this far-reaching allegory, the physical world is known by analogy, and the gods give divinity not only to natural forces but also to a 'supernatural,' intuitive understanding of mathematical patterns and psychological forces."

To understand the role of musical theory in modeling the cosmos, one must realize that it involves: "the definition of intervals, the distance between pitches, by ratios of integers or counting numbers." For the ancient Sumerians music was a tool that helped them describe the cosmos.

(McClain, Ernest G.; "Musical Theory and Ancient Cosmology," The World and I, p. 371, February 1994. Cr. L. Ellenberger)

Comment. Five thousand years ago, the Sumerians were (supposedly) just emerging from barbarism. What did they need all this musical and mathematical modeling for? Why did their sophisticated analytical talents evolve at all? They would seem to have little survival value.

From Science Frontiers #94, JUL-AUG 1994. 1994-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:

Quotes

  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987