Silicon Insider: Sweet Music From a Simple Theory

This column is too small a space to go any further into the scientific, even theological implications of Wolfram's theory, except to say that it suggested an underlying structure to the universe that none of us knew was there.

Just Listen

I published my article, which led to a brief flurry of reporters chasing down Wolfram. Then, at last, three years late, he published his book (all 1,200 pages of it) to another burst of press coverage. He even went on a book tour (appearing, memorably, on "Charlie Rose"). Then Wolfram sat back and waited for the explosion to tear apart the scientific world.

But it didn't happen.

Perhaps there is a doctoral candidate out there doing his dissertation on extending Wolfram's work, but I haven't heard of it. And obviously Wolfram's New Science has hardly taken the scientific world by storm. It must have been both heartbreaking and infuriating to Wolfram.

And so now, WolframTones. Wolfram once told me that his goal with his New Science was to plant a seed in the mind of mathematicians and scientists, to ask questions they couldn't answer, and provoke them to pursue this new course. Instead, they merely shrugged.

So, it appears, unwilling to wait, Wolfram has decided to pursue one of these paths to see if he can start that wildfire. What he has done is take some of his mosaic pyramids created by cellular automata -- the ones with the interesting randomness -- taken a slice out of their centers, set them on their sides, and used them, according to equally simple rules, to generate musical notes.

Listen, he seems to be saying, this isn't some dumb, random computer-generated sound. This is real music -- the Music of the Spheres. It is alive, and is so because it taps into the underlying structure of you and me and the universe itself.

Just listen … and consider what it means.

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