All About Tom

It has been our tradition to celebrate our 50-puzzle points winners with an exclusive online interview. Kim has stepped into this fame first a year ago and we ran All About Kim. Today it is Tom's turn.

One of the intriguing things about online communities (like TheMathMom's puzzle solvers)  is that you never know who is behind the posted name. You discover a person through the way he thinks and expresses himself in writing, through some tidbits he reveals about his life. Today we have a unique opportunity to match the Tom we all know with a face and even a sound. Please see below surprising and intriguing truth about Tom.


Here is Tom, before (left) and after (right) he joined our Puzzle Marathon.


Let's reveal that your are a Professor Emeritus of trombone at the University of Arizona. My first question is about the elegant and squiggly integral sign, does it remind you of trombone?

A: It doesn't, nope, sorry, probably since I never took calculus. It reminds me more of the "f-holes," the sound holes in the belly of acoustic string instruments.

Q: Math and music: they seem to have a lot in common. Do you agree that they are both universal languages you can communicate with across the nations.

A: Wellll...I never thought so, no.  Music is not a language ad it is not universal.  Languages are not music.  Math is something different still. There is a lot to learn in order to get the hang of any of these. It may have been the poet Henry W. Longfellow who first called music a language, but he was, after all, a poet. Music can sometimes represent action or scenery, or express plenty of emotion, and other times not, particularly across different cultures. Chinese folk music just doesn't do much for me, and a Clifford Brown trumpet solo or Mahler symphony might not work on Eskimos.

Q: Continuing on math and music comparison: do you think classical compositions from 15-18th centuries are like main math theorems that we are building on theories/music nowadays.

A: I guess that's about right, we still use the tonal system that was formalized about then, maybe earlier. We still often use the forms as a basis for both long and short works. There are experiments, and many failures that never catch on nor work very well. Insofar as "progress" is concerned, I hope mathematicians and scientists have better success than the music industry

Q: One guitar player told me that she thinks that musicians' jam sessions are like mathematicians get together. They talk, listen, improvise on top of old notes or theorems and usually create something new and beautiful.  Do you agree?

A: Yes, they can. Or they might just have a beer or two.

Q: Can we hear some of your music?

A: Here are track listings from my CD: I will be around.

Q: Can you use your superb analytic skill and predict the outcome of the upcoming presidential elections?

A: Nope, not yet. Too little information.  I'm going to TRY to be disinterested in this election season. I already know who I'm going to vote for, and I can be fairly sure about Arizona's results. Like the baseball season, it really is outside my control.  I care, but I barely matter.


 Q: Do you know that a nail polish brand named Essie has a nail polish color named trombone and describes it as a creamy and triumphant burst of red? What color do you associate trombone with?

A: My wife has heard of that nail polish color, I had not. Never thought of associating a color with trombone, or MY trombone, or the sound of a trombone; guess I just don't think that way.

Tom, in my correspondence with you over the puzzles in the past years I noticed that every email you send ends with a wise classical quotation. You change them quite often. I love them and want to end this interview with one of them, by E.B.White:

I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.

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