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Talk, “The Square Root of 2 and the Devil in Music” – Caltech Y

October 19, 2022 @ 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm

from event website:

Time & Location

Oct 19, 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Athenaeum, 551 S Hill Ave, Pasadena, CA 91106, USA

About The Event

No Host Bar 6:00 pm

Dinner 7:00 pm

Speaker 8:00 pm


Please RSVP by October 10th, 2022

Space is limited.


Per Caltech policy, all guests are required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination for entry.

Please bring vaccination documentation with you to the event.

The square root of 2 is one of the great conundrums of mathematics.  So easy to describe but so difficult to pin down! What actually is it?  The devil in music or “diabolo in musica” is the tritone, and it acquired this nickname because it is the most dissonant of all intervals. With demonstrations on the piano and violin, Dr.  Cheng will weave these two stories together. We will see how a mathematical understanding of irrational numbers leads to the well-tempered tuning system that inspired Bach to write preludes and fugues in every key (twice) and how the square root of two gives rise to the devil in music.


Dr. Eugenia Cheng is a mathematician, concert pianist, and Scientist in Residence at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Alongside  her research in Category Theory and undergraduate teaching, her aim is  to rid the world of “math phobia.” She was an early pioneer of math on YouTube, and her book, How to Bake Pi was featured on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Her latest book, X + Y: A  Mathematician’s Manifesto for Rethinking Gender was released in 2020.


Friends dinners are unique evenings where the Caltech and Pasadena communities come together to engage with world-renowned scientific,  humanitarian, and civic leaders. You are receiving this event because you are a Friend of the Caltech Y or a Friend is inviting you. Friends dinners are not fundraising events. Our ticket price covers our cost for the evening.


October 19, 2022
6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
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