Sum of All Parts - The Infinite God
This is an ABC podcast. Hello, welcome to science friction its culture and science with extra spice. Some, the Tesha Mitchell gripe, spicy stories for you this week in next. We are showcasing a deliciously adventurous podcast from ABC science. It's called some of all parts or soap that's nickname. And it's host while I would say Joe Werner, you are a man of many obsessions and music has to be Scholley one of them. Yeah. Music's definitely up there. And while some vol- parts is a show about numbers. I think numbers and mathematics in music is so interwoven that occasionally it ends up being a bit of a music podcast as well. And that's definitely the case with the story with featuring today. Yeah, it's a shy with really rhythmic pulse often because you do beautiful sand design and at the heart of this story is a genuine, rockstar. Who discovered an obsession himself, kind of mid Korea robot Schneider is huge in India Saint so it means that, that's not so huge. But he, he is a big deal in the right circles. And he kind of walked away from this very successful music career to focus on an obsession. He has with mathematics. Let's take it away. Robert Schneider was the last person that can Ono expected to hear from all my gosh, I'd known about Robert Schneider, through his music, Kenza, mathematician and professor of number theory at Emory University five years ago, I got an Email from this Robert Schneider, saying that he wanted to pursue a PHD in number theory, which for me is crazy. Robert is a rockstar. He's a lead singer of the band apples and stereo. You know, you don't usually look for graduate students from a pool of Rockstars. I thought it was the craziest thing that this man in his early. Forties wants to put that career on hold, and pursue a career in mathematics. So this all starts when a crate turns up at rub. It's recording studio. It's like the kind of crate, you seen old cartoons where they'll be like a kangaroo that's being shipped across the of the kangaroo breaks out of the crate, and like wreaks havoc. Old. On the kangaroo gets confused for a mouse, or something like that. You know. And it was an old school would create we had to use a crowbar to open it. Five of that mouth, it was very romantic. And when we opened it in the box fell aside, there's the most beautiful antique tape machine we put it in place, and the first time I used it. I realized that this was the perfection of tape machine recording technology. Probably of all time as good as tight machine sanded it had a problem, it would constantly blow out these things called diodes and electron it component. And this was like the achilles heel of this particular tape machine for every one day that the tape machine worked, it would be broken down for two days to start with the band. Got a local audio engineer to come in and repair the machine. But then today's later he had to come back. He fix again. His look, I think this is just gonna keep happening Robert you're going to have to learn to fix this yourself. And so in the haze of just being sort of a lo fi punk rock hippie recording artists suddenly had to learn about Electroncs and so. I went to radio shack, and I bought this book called basic electron IX and open the book up and on the first page, I opened to right in the middle of the page, there was this equation called Ohm's law and owns law is the fundamental law of electron IX, basically, it's an equation, that describes the numbers Hal electric city flows, and it's so simple has three things in it with an equal sign. And when I saw this law on the page, it completely blew my mind because I realized that moment that everything that I thought was important. Everything I had tried to do that was beautiful, all of my friendship friends that I had traded muse live music listening to the radio into records tame courting onto the tape mission microphone, liquoring light red lights flashing. All of this stuff was existing against the backdrop of the simple mathematical equation. And it's not just that my brain was an electrical system. My thoughts and my mind somehow were being supported by this equation. And like I'm in my studio and I'm at the microphone like we are right now and you speak into the microphone and your voice is transformed into electricity and it goes through all of these circuits and stuff and comes back through the system, it's my headphones and it's going back into my ears and there it's transformed back into the electrical impulses. And it goes back into my mind. If this crazy loop of electricity that our entire existence is completely wrapped up in and all of this stuff was contained in a simple equation. That was just our bre on a page, my memory of that moment is that there was like lights shining, down through the ceiling onto golden light like in those renaissance paintings, like, really felt like that. It felt like there was no ceiling or sky above me, just like Infinity, like pouring down this light on me onto the page. It was very dramatic feeling. After I had this sort of pithy with the tape machine, I was extremely enamored of mathematics instantly, so robots to teach himself mathematics and the whole time. This was happening. I'm in the touring band making records and I'm in studios all of the time and also a dad, so in sort of the frenzy of life. I also was trying to sneak time whenever I could to learn about mathematics, and work on these ideas, Robert would be backstage hid deep in a textbook on a break in the studio scribbling away in one of these notebooks but being Museau with the maths obsession is kind of a solitary pursuit, no matter how many degrees of separation he went away from me. I didn't even the one other person that was interested in math. Maybe like if you had a day job. But then your hobby was that you are a solitary lumberjack and you'd like drive out into the wilderness, miles and miles and miles away from any other human being and with chop down trees being like a self taught mathematician, not knowing anybody kind of feels like it's that isolated like you really are doing this thing that it doesn't. Connect anybody else. Like cross fade, the volume slowly down roots music, career, and mixing with this new noise, number theory, mathematics started to infiltrate the music that Roe was making like he's not tra- logarithms to develop this thing called a non Therrien scale hearing pace composed in his scale now, essentially, it's a brand new musical scale, with new notes set at intervals that aren't found in the chromatic scale, we all know and love this intrigue, the mathematics community and Robert was invited to give lectures on music and maths at universities and colleges across the US. And it was one of these trips that emit can earn. Oh for the first time I am a professional real live research, mathematician, which means that I spent a lot of time thinking about numbers deep in the wilderness. Robert ran into another lumberjack. Cans really enthusiastic. He's very high energy. He's kind of far out. He's a fast thinker can remember leaving and feeling like I was flying on math. Like it was the first time I had engaged in such deep math conversation with anybody. And he ended up having me in his office for like an hour and a half. And it was a really, really wonderful experience for me. So Kenan robot heated off, for a whole bunch of reasons, but a big part of it is shared obsession with a mystical Indian mathematician, who's been dead. For almost a century, Ramona gin much of my work, believe it or not is informed by a man named Romana Jin. He is quite an amazing figure really he is kind of like an incomplete profit in the world of math. Once you hear about some mathematicians Ramana Jains name is it comes up, if you don't know anything about mathematics, will, you know about Isaac Newton, everybody knows who he is either. Maybe like iron Stein. If you go one layer in so you say have heard about people like oiler and gals. Then you also know. About Ramana jn. He's very famous in mathematics, but it's like being famous indie music. If you've never heard of pavement, there's no way you'll ever hear of them, but they one level in. So if you know what indie music is then, you know who pavement is. Similar in that like the do know about pavement, then, like you really know about pavement do not obey, and let's have a casual fan, right? Like you have. If you've gotten that far in, then you're too far in. Born into poverty in the south of India in eighteen eighty seven Ramana Jin had almost no formal training in mathematics and yet still over the course of his lifetime. He came up with thousands of mathematical formulas because he thought they were gifts to him from his Hindu goddess, goddess NAMA Geary at night in his sleeping dreams, or when he was meditating in his temple his family's goddess with come to him, envisions and would touch his tongue with her finger and write equations on his tongue, just how reminded and came up with these formulas one of the biggest mysteries in mathematics beyond the folklore of goddess riding on his tongue. He left behind. No trace of how actually derived any of these work like I said reminded him was born into a poll, family and paper was expensive. So he did all these calculations in chalk. On a slight wiping the slate clean. Izzy wind. It was only when he got to the final formula that he transcribe it from. The slate into a notebook. He presented his work without any proofs is just a list of questions. Nobody could make heads or tails of it in his era. And for the last hundred years, mathematicians have been trying to work out what Ramana JR and did. And to prove his work Ramones into work is all about unlocking, the infinite about taking what most of the sink of is inconceivable and making it more noble. You found ways of taming extremely complicated numbers, so that you would never be afraid of them at all as I looked into Ramana, Jen. I found that his story really spoke to me. He was a self taught mathematician. He didn't have access to education hit, in fact, dropped out of college. This inspired me to realize that you could take the sort of self motivated, nonstandard path towards mathematics. That's more commonly the way that artists go about it. I saw him as being the model for the kind of genius that one might aspire to, you know, Vermont was the mathematician that provided me with the model of. How is all that mathematics should be done? Flash forward a couple of years, and I had decided that I was going to drop out of the music scene stopped touring, and go to graduate school. And if I'm going to do that I should probably do it now. I'm like forty until, like over the course of a year or so pulled myself out of the music world. This is huge robots. A rook star music is he's in tile life. That was sort of a weird, you know, is a great time. It is weird time to I almost had like an identity sort of. Dissociate of few a little bit where you have, like people leave town and change their names and moved to a different place and take on a whole new identity didn't have that going on. But I felt a little bit like that was going on, because there was no crossover between my music life and my math life. And it's pretty obvious who Robert's going to want to oversee this crossover rut, he visited me at Emory University, and he came armed with notebooks. Couldn't believe it just like Ramana Jin had notebooks. You must have one hundred of them by now Ken was grilling me to see. I was acceptable as a student for him. And the. It wasn't just me coming in as a well known musician with a math hobby. It was like me coming in as a potential person he would work with. And it had a different flavor to it the level of energy in the room who needs nuclear power. If you have someone like rob Schneider, he said, I don't know, a lot of math, but I love beauty. And I see that there is art in mathematics, and I wanna come study with you at Emory. We went through his notebooks. I saw flashes of genius, and we took a gamble on him because a lot of the qualities that I seen Ramana Jin. I see in Robert Robert's completely unconventional in his thoughts. And, you know, he is produced some of the most beautiful formulas that I've seen in the last four or five years, left, that time, it was more than flying on math. I was in like orbit, you know, like it was such a great feeling. It was a very inspiring and exciting moment for me. As I left the building, my wife, pick me up. And she tells the story is that I got in the car, and she looked at me, and she said, I had never looked so happy. And she said to me, Honey, you're going to Emory, orange you and I thought about it for a second. And I was like, oh my God. She's right. I have never felt this happy in this kind of conversation about mathematics with anybody on science fiction here on VCR in on Jolan with a some of old pots special, it's the story of rook Stott and mathematician, rubbish NADA. So Robert packs, up his house and his family and he moves across the country to do a PHD with Kane ONA and soon after Kim has a breakthrough this is a huge result, and it's all to do with Ramona Jin's most mysterious work a mystery the left of the world from his death did. But to try to understand it, we need to put it in the context of end of Ramana jen's life. So quick recap Ramana jn had been collecting these formulas that would gifted to him any sleep. Goddess riding on his tongue. And after a while he starts sending these ideas to prominent mathematicians from all around the world now Ramana jn doesn't show any working, right? So there's no way to figure out how he even derived these ID's. So all these academics, they pretty much just ignore him. Except for g h hardy a number theorist, Cambridge University, g h hardy was this amazing super mathematician of his era. Ramada cinema letter filled with mathematics, hardy was like I've never seen anything like this. It's so crazy that it has to be true Hoti was running on a gut feeling invited Ramana Jin to come to England to study with him at Cambridge, and for a period of five years in the mid nineteen teens when England was in the midst of this bloody World War, Ramana Jen prove some of the most astonishing formulas of the day during his time at Cambridge Ramana and struggle to adapt to English culture in. He found the food strange and difficult to stomach frequently seek, but doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong with him, and eventually, the constant illness got too much. So he returned to India in one thousand nine hundred nineteen hoping to return to good health, but he continued to do his own research. And in January of nineteen twenty he wrote to his collaborator g h hardy in Cambridge and this letter begins dear hardy. I'm sorry for not writing a single letter, but I've discovered this most wonderful theory, and he goes on to list examples of functions. He calls mock veta- functions. And for the next ninety years. Nobody knew what he was talking about. And this is very mysterious. He sent it in a letter just a few pages long. So he didn't put any more information about it. But he indicated in the letter that he had a theory. And then the next letter Amman that hardy got said that Ramal had passed away. Remond engine died. Unfortunately, at the age of thirty two long before he was able to explain all of his ideas to hardy, and the other mathematicians, and so all that was left was the single letter that had a couple of examples. Nobody had any idea how Ramada had come up with them. And so these bizarre functions that reminded and dreamed up in a fever. One imagines on his deathbed turned out to be a huge subject of study and intrigue in the twentieth, century. And this was kipnes big breakthrough. He figured out how reminded and derived, these deathbed functions it was this. If he'd been able to undo some of the chalk workings that Ramana Jin had wiped clean from you, slight one day I walked into office. And like Robert, I know how to prove that Ramada Jains definition of the mock veta- functions is true. I was like, oh my God. That's amazing. That's really big news. Turns out that, that year two thousand twelve was the one hundred twenty fifth anniversary of Ramana birth. There was a big festival going on all over India about Ramana Jin. He's a national hero there. So we were invited by Shasta university. A modern university that is based in Koumba Chonam in south India, the town that Ramana Jen lived in grew up in Ken was invited to speak about his new work, and they invited me also to give a talk on quantum modular forms, so it can rub it head to India. I've been to India many times, but it was thrilling to share this pilgrimage with Robert visit. Tting some of the sites that play an important role in the Ramana Jin story when he was visiting them for the first time I had a considerable amount of work to do which was hard because I was on anti-malaria medication that was making me kind of be in a psychedelic state, the whole time I was there. So, like, I was there, the Ramana jn, the Conan, the Hinduism's whole thing was all swimming around. I was having extremely surreal experience. A magic him walking through ruins and temples in India, soaking up the brilliant colors, the smells, and the people. This is component. It's a town of say one hundred thousand people, maybe a few hundred thousand people, but it still feels like a village. If feels like you're in this beautiful, tropical jungle, it is a sacred city in south India filled with temples. It's called the temple city. The temple that is just down the street from Ramana engines child at home. It's about like a block away from his house. It's this beautiful really int- the painted structure builds from rocks that were brought from the north by elephants like two thousand years ago, that reach, I don't know, five six hundred feet into the sky. These giant stones are now blackened with age engraved, with crazy, ancient alphabets that people don't even recognize anymore. And as you here at the top of this temple, you can barely make out the intricate carvings and the very, very top segment of it, and they'll be eighty year hundred bats flying around swirling around the top, and all the while you hear the rhythmic drumming of the drums that the Hindu monks are chanting to from the inside. And some Lee, the sound has dropped away. There are so many thick walls of stone between you and the modern world and you're walking into a space. That's thousands of years old, just to walk from your modern life into an ageless space, like that feels extremely mysterious and deep grandma experience this every day. As I went into his temple. I looked around at all the patterns and designs and a felt like it was really inside a culture of Infinity. Indian religion is not a religion of one God, or a handful of God's like the ancient Greek mythology or something. It's a religion of almost infinitely many shapes and forms of their deity, the sense of blossomed Janine glowering things, hopping off infants branching off, this is built into the architecture of Hinduism. And if you look at Nate aren't tapestries Harding's, eating all of these details zoom in you see all of these little everywhere you look it's covered. Our tents and everywhere you look bustling, animals trees, and glowers, and everything looks like sort of a simple pattern and as and you keep seeing the same pattern repeating, but with more variety. And, and as you zoom zoom zoom in, and then you're on the level of the Infinity. The infinitude of Fratelli details all around and Indian culture, I believe that that gave Ramana gen a sense of comfort with infinite detail. So I think that the infinite variety of deities and patterns in the art and everything else must have calibrated his mind to be able to somehow feel absolutely at ease with the clutter and the chaos of the crazy mathematics that he started to think about these were things that western mathematicians had never even thought about before, they're still struggling with simple aspects of Ramallah rushed ahead and pulled in thousands of new crazy patterns that nobody had even looked for before because there are so blinded by the noise, and he was able to look through the noise being perfectly comfortable with it. It's kind of like in the nineties, we had that magic I art and see this crazy complicated pattern. But if you stare inside it suddenly it's a way, oh floating in with a heart. For something. You know what I mean? I think you would see that I feel like Ramana, John was looking into the noise that he saw in mathematics, and he was able to look into it, and blur, his eyes and scenes of the distance and see three d whales that was floating. Certain level. Maybe just a certain mindset, mathematics, becomes something different to what you study in school. Fuel wrote timetables, and Hazel memorized, formulas, and something mold creative closer to an RTC precedes something into woven with all of your other passions, all of which informed, the white, you think about numbers. And that's it really kind of scape the influence your life has on what you choose to do with it. Context is everything, so you might as well make the most of it. Mathematics is like music. It is a self contained universe of its own, when I'm writing songs when a making music most of the time, actually not making any sound at all. I'm just thinking I'm listening in my head to arrangements, develop and two songs that I'm writing. And I'm thinking of lyrics in writing down in my notebook, but it's largely silence and interning process when I'm in the studio, I'll hear that world that I had sort of imagined coming out of the speakers, and connect in really magical way because it's overlapping with the world that's ready inside my head. You're suddenly physically able to reach into the world that was previously only mental. Mathematics is pure. It's free from the physical world. There's constraint the mathematics is like hearing the music in your head. It's a fully self contained universe. And you have access to in your imagination, and we only know tiny little piece of it think about the set of all possible. Sounds like an ever be made anywhere by anything and think about how small music theory is compared to that. And that's what the math that we practice is like compared to the math that's out there. It feels like there's a universe of all possible mathematics, and we know this tiny little piece that we've been able to find, and that's something you see you look off into the distance in your imagination, and you can see that, that's there you can see off in the distance fading away these like horizons that are beyond what you could possibly know reach. Robots nada. He such alive was so season. Two of some of all parts has landed folks. Joe win. What's up? I the first episode is another music story, but this time it's a story about out very human. Compulsion to move bodies to the bait. Let's hear ties as humans. We have a natural tendency to entrain to regulate. So if it's just a. There's a fair chance. We may wanna start topping our foot along with it. But in the end could be August is actually a little bit boring. Having just a steady bait going through everything. And how the story is a really great yon about Radiohead. And I love how as the episode landed righty, oh, head launched this whole Beck has log of one of their albums. Joe it kind of got a bit lost when one of the greatest volts in music, his treaty, they got unleashed onto the world, but it was a great coincidence. And yet Radiohead really gives us an insight. Surprisingly gives us an insight to the ancient roots of this kind of compulsion. We have to rhythm. Thanks, joe. You can catch some of all parts in new podcast fade worthy. Get you poed cast or ABC. Listen up catching wake by you've been listening to an ABC podcast. Discover more great ABC podcasts. Live radio and exclusives on the listen up.