Math + pop music = hidden education

Popular music group OK Go, famous for their unusual and meticulously planned videos (which often put Rube Goldberg to shame) have done it again, this time with a video that explores a world we cannot see.

The video opens with a 4.2-second burst of frenetic action, all flying colored salt and bullets penetrating buckets of paint and exploding water balloons and guitars. It goes by so fast that you’re not even sure what happened.

Then the real magic begins. The video returns to the beginning and shows it all again, this time in super slow motion. And this is when you realize that every event in these 4.2 seconds has been perfectly synchronized to the beat of the music and even to specific syllables in the lyrics. It is a phenomenal, real-world example of mathematics at work. (Teachers will love showing this to teens.) Damian Kulash, Jr., the lead singer, worked on the math for this video for “eight to ten hours a day, for, like, a month.”

So watch this, and then read a bit more about it. Oh, and you really need to see it full screen.

Got all that?

OK Go put up background notes and some interesting Q&A on their website. It will make the geeks happy with answers to things such as:

How many things happen in it?

It sort of depends how you count “things,” but there are 318 events (54 colored salt bursts behind Tim, 23 exploding paint buckets, 128 gold water balloons, etc.) that were synchronized to the music before the breakdown.

Did you really blow up all those guitars?

Yes, but they were already being scrapped by Fender for not meeting their quality control standards, which is to say they were defects. No playable guitars were harmed in the making of this video.

But the best part is the spreadsheet. You have to go check out that spreadsheet.

There’s also a video on the making of the video, which is worth a look. My favorite bit: when the guy in charge of building the hardware and doing the coding to make all of this stuff happen says, “The last time that I’ve seen someone having to build something this accurate to fire pyrotechnics was the Manhattan Project.”

Hat tip to Rebecca.

About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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6 Responses to Math + pop music = hidden education

  1. Patti says:

    Wow! Thank you for showing us this.

  2. Alma says:

    Oh. My. God. What? How? Wow. o____0

    This bit particularly made me intensely happy:
    “The whole point of the video is to explore a time scale that we can’t normally experience, but because it’s so inaccessible to us, our tools for dealing with it are indirect. The only way we can really communicate with that realm is through math.”
    So basically slow motion is like another dimension. Or like the electron microscopic world. Or like the amount of distance and stars in the universe. Yes, that makes sense.

  3. xenatuba says:

    **Not a geek** AND the phrase “moves faster than we can feel” really resonates with me. Sounds like life…

  4. Rick Taylor says:

    Crazy complicated! Amazing.



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