June 01, 2017

Stuff Evelyn wants you to read #5

Hello friends! Earlier this month I was listening to some music very softly while I was working. I love music, but it is usually too distracting for me to listen to while doing anything else. While I was listening to it, without really thinking about it, my brain figured out that one of the pieces had been in E♭. I had been subconsciously playing it on my mental viola (it's a thing) in G, and it just didn't feel right. But my brain treated it like a puzzle and figured out that it felt more right if I thought of it in E♭. I checked, and indeed, it had been in E♭. When I told my spouse about this little puzzle my brain had worked out while listening to barely-audible music, a light bulb went off in his mind.
During the decade or so we've been together, I've told him many times that I can't listen to music while I'm trying to do something, and he's seen that it can sometimes be difficult for me to have a conversation if there's music playing in a restaurant or a taxi. But he hadn't really understood the level to which my brain focuses on the music if it's there and treats music as a puzzle that can be worked out with enough thought. I don't think he thought I was just being dramatic about my need not to have music playing 
— he never questioned my need for him to close the door or put on headphones when he was listening to music — but he didn't really understand. Now he does.
I kept coming back to that silly little moment during the rest of the month. It made me feel good about our relationship. Even without fully understanding how much my brain is devoted to processing music while I'm listening to it, he didn't make me feel like I was being silly or melodramatic when I needed the music turned off. Then, when he did understand it, he was excited that he finally got it and understood me a little better than he had before. After all these years, we still have more to learn about each other.
We visited Toruń, Poland this month. It is the birthplace of Nicolaus Copernicus/Mikołaj Kopernik/Nikolaus Kopernikus/Niklas Koppernigk. Here he is wearing a silly hat.
What I wrote
What I read
Blast from the past
Albrecht Dürer's 546th birthday was in May. In 2014, I wrote about a very slow but mathematically precise way to draw a lute based on one of his paintings. He also wrote a book about "the just shaping of letters." Times New Roman is based on his instructions. Learn more from this episode of the University of Houston's Engines of our Ingenuity.

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Twitter: @evelynjlamb
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Read my Scientific American blog, Roots of Unity
Read my American Mathematical Society blog, Blog on Math Blogs