On a Hot Tau

Tau is a commonly used symbol in the land of campus Greeks. After all, it is the 19th letter of the Greek alphabet – yet it is also the last letter of the Phoenician and Old Hebrew alphabets.

Tau has a variety of meaning depending on the subject matter:

  • A protein associated with Alzheimer’s (biology)
  • A dose interval regarding externally administered substances (pharmacology)
  • A measurement of the amount of sunlight unable to penetrate the atmosphere (astronomy)
  • A variety of physics topics related to time, plus the symbol for torque
  • A symbol for life and resurrection (ancient culture)
  • A numerical symbol for 300 (Greek)

In mathematics, Tau represents “an irrational constant when the ration of the sum of the quantities to the larger quantity is equal to the ratio of the larger quantity to the smaller one.” We humans have applied this golden ratio of 1.6180339887 … to architecture, painting, finance, and even music – yet we also associate Tau with meaningful people as Plato, Euclid, Fibonacci, and Kepler. Although the Greek letter Theta represents this ratio today, at one time Tau was the symbol.

I recall a day I stood in front of a group of teachers and said, “Mathematics is not a subject of content, it is a language – a communication tool for explaining content.” Although I received both resistance and the deer in the headlights look, mathematics stands with other primary communication tools for content as written, spoken, visual, and musical. Those who saw last week’s video about Fibonacci in nature may recall the mathematical link to visual designs in nature.

I continually stand in awe at the wonderful creation of our world. Being religious, specifically Christian, I see the natural world as God’s creation – one of His gifts to us. However, I do not see it in the same light as those believing in intelligent design – and not even close to the belief system of the Young Earth Creationists.

Meanwhile, thanks to Patti, enjoy this musical appreciation of the mathematical world of Tau. If you enjoy this and didn’t see the post about the Fibonacci number in nature, click here.