Day 2: Don’t B Flat! B Natural!

June 25, 2010 in Uncategorized by Isabel Gold

As I peered into optical microscopes and scanning tunneling microscopes, a thought continued to go through my head, a thought that first formed in the wave lecture: “What is up with B flat?” I tried to ignore it –  “B flat is irrelevant. Look at the zebra fish. See how they glow red.” But it was futile. I have only heard of the wondrous note’s phenomenon vaguely, but I knew that the universe happens to sings to us in B flat, the Vivaldi cello sonata that I have been studying for the past couple of weeks happens to be in B flat major YouTube Preview Image (a fair rendition), and that the leaf blower shooing leaves to my neighbor’s lawn happens to whine at a perfect B flat (ah, the joys of tuners). The lecture only ignited my curiosity. We glimpsed at the article, “Have you Heard of B flat?” but for a mere second, and the few words I managed to catch were: “For reasons that remain mostly mysterious, the note we call B flat does the oddest things.” This did not help. I decided to venture to the land of B flat myself. I was wrong about the universe humming in B flat. Dr. David Whitehouse of BBC News ( in fact reported that the famed system that does however find an affinity to this note, that was spotted by the Chandra X-ray telescope, was a black hole once hidded within the Perseus galaxy – 250 million light-years away. The black hole does sing to us, but alas, even those with the sharpest ears would never hear it’s passionate song; it sings 57 octaves below middle C – a million, billion times deeper than our mere ears can hear. But, distant black holes aren’t the only thing to have a connection to this note.

Alligators happen to viciously react to the acclaimed note – well, at least if it’s from a tuba. Jeff Klikenberg of the St. Petersburg Times ( brought along tuba players to the magnificent world of Gatorland to see the effects himself. The results? Alligators either excitedly belch out the same note in unison (see the amazing alligator action here! or, well, begin an act of courtship. The reason remains a mystery, revealed only to the knowledge of the alligators and their kin. But there must be other notes out there, with the same ethereal power, the same worldly mystery. I myself love C# and F# : notes that somehow always ring beautifully if played in tune, albeit their complicated structure.

Can’t get enough of that B flat sensation? This ought to do it.