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Would alien music rock — or be inaudible?

SHARE Would alien music rock — or be inaudible?

Question: If extraterrestrial aliens sent us a rocketload of CDs, what types of music might we be in store for?

Answer: They're obviously intelligent, can presumably hear and are into objects of art. Lucky us!

Since humans and animals can detect harmonics, aliens probably could, too, says Carnegie Mellon computer scientist Roger B. Dannenberg. The simplest harmonic ratio, 2:1, corresponds to the octave. Adding a few more simple ratios, you get scales and chords.

"Nearly all human cultures have the same basic scales, so I think alien music would at least have a recognizable scale similar to our major scale, and possibly even 12 notes, due to math and physics universals."

Rhythm is also key, and while you wouldn't expect rock, the bossa nova, or any other recognizable dance rhythm, "I think whatever rhythms they used, we would understand them as rhythm and even enjoy them."

Hearing, of course, varies inter-specially, and if they had dog hearing or elephant hearing, they might make all their music too high or too low for us to hear, adds Eric Scheirer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab.

Question: What four-legged zoo favorite outsizes an 800-pound gorilla by plenty, has a reputation for squashing humans and sports built-in jogging shoes?

Answer: In "Diatoms to Dinosaurs," Chris McGowan reports on a recurring theme among elephant keepers: No matter how friendly and cooperative the animals, chances are they'll eventually try to kill their handler.

Zoologist McGowan says he always assumed this was an accident of their size, but then he met a keeper who said they do it on purpose. "He told me about an elephant who used to gather up pieces of bread with his trunk and make a trail for birds to follow. When an unsuspecting bird strayed too close, the elephant would bring down his foot and squash it flat!"

Accounts from Africa tell of elephants attacking lions and trampling them to death.

The downside of being 6-tons at the top of the bully chain is the plodding way an elephant moves, on stiff fat legs that must be held straight at all times, and every movement — e.g., rearing up on hind legs to reach branches — must be with great caution. Its thick, short neck supports a ton of head; balloon-like footpads can be seen to pop out whenever a foot is lifted, designed to absorb the shock of such weighty footfalls like well-cushioned jogging shoes.


Send STRANGE questions to brothers Bill and Rich at strangetrue@compuserve.com