Author: David Atos

Are you familiar with the musical composition called a canon? It’s a piece where the main melody is repeated over and over in counterpoint, with some kind of transformation. Sometimes, it’s delayed in time. Sometimes, it’s played backwards. Even if you’re not familiar with the musical terms, you’ve not only heard them, you’ve sung them as well. Simple rounds like “Row, row, row your boat” are basic canons.

The interesting thing about canons is that, given a partially-completed one, you can figure out the rest of the notes, like a logic puzzle. Famous composers used to exchange incomplete canons to entertain each other. Even today, you can find “puzzle canons” to exercise your mind.

The first gravitational waves were definitively detected by LIGO and Virgo in September 2015; two black holes dancing around each other, then merging into a single mass. Further observations were made over the years, slowly at first, then more and more frequently as our instruments improved. Soon, we were able to measure the gravitational waves from every portion of the sky.

It was a college music professor who first discovered it. The frequencies of the waves were confined beyond what quantum and relativistic physics dictated. Plotted on a graph, they all fit within enormous octaves. Each merger was a separate note. The notes combined to create harmonies and counterpoints. And together, an overarching structure.

It took 15 years of processing on the greatest supercomputers available to humanity, but the structure of the canon was discovered. The main melody was identified. The retrogrades, inversions, and mirrors calculated. Predictions were made, and observations matched them.

We don’t know the composer, but we do know that the universe is building towards an enormous crescendo.

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