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No. 107: Sep-Oct 1996

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Organ Music

Your doctor is understandably concerned if he finds your heartbeat is irregular. But it turns out that the healthy heart does not beat steadily and precisely like a metronome. In fact, the intervals between normal heartbeats vary in a curious fashion: in a simple, direct way, they can be converted to musical notes. When these notes (derived from heartbeat intervals) are heard, the sound is pleasant and intriguing to the ear -- almost music -- and certainly far from being random noise. In fact, a new CD entitled: Heartsongs: Musical Mappings of the Heartbeat, by Z. Davis, records the "music" derived from the digital tape recordings of the heartbeats of 15 people. Recording venue: Harvard Medical School's Beth Israel Hospital!

This whole business raises some "interesting" speculations for R.M. May.

"We could equally have ended up with boring sameness, or even dissonant jangle. The authors speculate that musical composition may involve, to some degree, 'the recreation by the mind of the body's own naturally complex rhythms and frequencies. Perhaps what the ear and the brain perceive as pleasing or interesting are variations in pitch that resonate with or replicate the body's own complex (fractal) variability and scaling.'"

(May, Robert M.; "Now That's What You Call Chamber Music," Nature, 381:659, 1996)

Cross reference. See under PSYCHOLOGY a tidbit about Mozart and the golden section.

From Science Frontiers #107, SEP-OCT 1996. 1996-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "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