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ETpro's avatar

Why ohm? (See details.)

Asked by ETpro (34202 points ) March 9th, 2011

Eastern meditation seems to always involve a low, droning “Ohmmmmmm…” sound. Why ohm? I’ve done a bit of testing, and I can’t find anything that comes close to sounding as right. For instance. try close substitutes like:
    “I’rmmm…”
    “Ermmm…”
    “Ammm…”
    “Ahemmm…”
    “Ummm…”

None of those work nearly as well. But why? Is there something cosmically special about the name we in the West chose to attach to the basic unit of electrical resistance?

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20 Answers

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
snowberry's avatar

Your other samples seem to be variations of actual words in English, or sounds we make while trying to collect our thoughts. I don’t know if Ohm has a meaning in the original language, but if it does, it’s probably not one of the words above. I don’t think it has a meaning, and that’s on purpose, but it would be interesting to know.

iamthemob's avatar

The Om moves from shapless sound, openness, void and flat tone to a closed, hermetic but complete sound that vibrates energy. O is an open and hollow sound representing the void – it’s the most complete expansion of the throat muscles – other vowel sounds require the shaping in some way of the throat or tongue to create the vowel. The O is a physical representation of nothing.

Closed, that space is still there, but it vibrates with life. The sound is meant to, in essence, be the metaphor for the creation of the universe. And the production of the sound is that same metaphor.

iamthemob's avatar

@snowberry – Om or Aum kind of has a meaning – but it’s a syllable:

“The Sanskrit name for the syllable is praṇava, from a root nu “to shout, sound”, verbal pra-nu- being attested as “to make a humming or droning sound” in the Brahmanas, and taking the specific meaning of “to utter the syllable aum” in the Chāndogya Upanishad and the Shrauta Sutras.”source

ETpro's avatar

@mammal, @snowberry & @iamthemob Fascinating. I knew I would learn a thing or two by asking this. Thanks.

SavoirFaire's avatar

Just to add to the above, I was always taught that “Aum” actually has four parts—the three you hear and the silence that follows before you start again. This was presented as making the sound complete, as silence is the complementary aspect of sound and symbolic of a peaceful mind.

iamthemob's avatar

@SavoirFaire – doesn’t it also speak to the cyclical nature of life/the universe? The silence implies the regeneration of the sound. Both stages are merely in-between the opposite.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@iamthemob Indeed. There’s an awful lot bound up in that silence!

iamthemob's avatar

All nothing, signifying a sound and fury.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

Because “volt” doesn’t slide off the tongue quite so easily.

Jeruba's avatar

adding to @SavoirFaire‘s comment, i was shown how the familiar aum symbol (= om—no h, @ETpro)! is composed of the three separate Devanagari (sanskrit alphabet) characters for A, U, and M, each having its own significance, and that the sacred syllable aum was derived from the sound of the universe heard in meditation by priests millennia ago.

there is no connection at all to the name of Georg Simon Ohm.

Rarebear's avatar

@IchtheosaurusRex Watt did you say?

markferg's avatar

I think ‘Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!’ works pretty well too!

ETpro's avatar

I was very sorry to see @mammal‘s excellent answer at the top of this thread deleted for writing standards. Lest the excellent link in it be lost, here it is. Om Mani Padme Hum, which the monks are chanting, means “Aum, to the jewel in the lotus, hum.”

@Rarebear and @markferg your irreverence is… shocking!

@Jeruba Accurate as ever. Thanks for the link to the real Ohm, who was somewhat the jewel in the lotus, himself.

Rarebear's avatar

I feel resistance to your attempts at humor.

markferg's avatar

@ETpro – Is “Wooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!” better?

markferg's avatar

I love it that the unit of resistance is an ‘ohm’ and the unit of conductance is a ‘mho’. Us scientists do have a sense of humour!

ETpro's avatar

@markferg I honestly think we have moh humor than your average Joe.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

@markferg, I Faraday has come when my ambition to make bad EE puns has gotten the better of me. I need to Coulomb now.

yankeetooter's avatar

Ah, @IchtheosaurusRex , your bad pun Herz me. Your sense of humor is just too rad for me. Well, I guess you win…to the vector goes the spoils…

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