Periodic Functions

Studying periodic functions was an incredible opportunity to look outside the classroom and inside our own bodies. Once we started looking, we saw periodic functions everywhere: the ebb and flow of the Napa river, the rhythm or our breath, our rigorous PE requirements at the Oxbow School.

One of my favorite instances of periodic change appears in Christian Marclay’s The Clock. This 24-hour video installation is a collage of film excerpts that make explicit reference to the passage of time. Time within the piece is synched to time outside of it. That is, when it is 3:25 pm in The Clock, it is also 3:25 pm outside the theatre. You can watch an excerpt of The Clock here.

The piece is a beautiful meditation on cycles within cycles. I asked to students to think of ways that we might model periodic change through the course of The Clock. For example: number of lights turned on in a room, number of alcoholic drinks consumed, or blood sugar present in the body.

Though The Clock is perhaps too disjointed and surreal to provide any concrete data, I think it’s a fun way to begin a conversation about periodic change.