Coldplay's New Math Rock Out

X&Y: Image from new Coldplay album
X&Y: Image from new Coldplay album

I'm sure you've heard of French mathematician Emile Baudot, right? No?! Well, what about British rock band Coldplay? Probably more likely. Surprisingly enough, though, there is a connection between the two. Coldplay's new album, "X & Y," has a cryptic cover that fans have recently discovered pays homage to Emile Baudot's work with the telegraph.

The cover features a seemingly abstract bunch of colored blocks on a blue background. The colored blocks actually represent the letters "X" and "Y"—the name of the album—in Baudot code.

Developed in 1870, Baudot code is the first-ever digital code. In other words, this code breaks down every letter of the English language into a very simple chunk of information—either a "1" or a "0". You can also imagine each of these chunks as either "on" or "off". Baudot's code allowed him to build a very fast telegraph. The telegraph was the primary way people communicated over very long distances before the invention of telephones and radio. Messages in Baudot code could be sent quickly over wires to far-flung parts of the world. Baudot's code worked better and faster than the previously-used Morse code. And Baudot's code helped other scientists to develop even better digital codes that eventually lead to the computers we use today.

So it's cool that Coldplay references his work in their album cover. I wonder how other artists might reference science in their work? What would a 50 Cent album cover with a math reference look like? What about an Eminem cover about Chemistry? A Slipknot cover about Geology? A White Stripes album cover featuring Physics? Hmmm . . . I wonder.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:


posted on Wed, 04/05/2006 - 2:27pm
majicbeans's picture
majicbeans says:

Binary doesnt need to be unrepresentable with computer launguages a binary can represent true/false, on/off, 1/0.

You can easily make your own binary math if you wanted

just do 0 is true, 1 is false
1, 1
2, 10
3, 1110
4, 11110
5, 111110
6, 1111110
I guess it would need to loop so
input 7
while(something <= input)
putchar('1'); //False

I would imagine a four bit switch board would be nessesary to represent the 24 letter alphabet

posted on Fri, 05/12/2006 - 3:37pm
vegasbright's picture
vegasbright says:

One is modeled on math, while the only geological reference in slipknots audience base to geology is offset when their fans believe it to be a reference to crystal meth.

Its a friggin album cover for a very technically sounding band, not a precedent.

Do I find your comment enlightening? um, no.

Frankly I'm just trolling when it comes right down to it.

posted on Sun, 06/12/2005 - 6:05am
Kristin's picture
Kristin says:

Its great that such a widely recognized band could bring back interest in a old form of communication and thank you for helping people to understand what it is they are seeing on the cover of the album. However, the Baudot code did not replace the Morse code, the Baudot code was replaced by the Morse code in the early 1900s.

posted on Sat, 07/23/2005 - 10:01am
Jim's picture
Jim says:

Actually, Baudot code did replace Morse code, for teletypes anyway. Morse was developed in the 1830s, and designed to be easy for humans to use. In Morse code, frequently used letters like vowels have short symbols, to make them quicker to send and receive. Unfortunately it was hard to design automatic telegraph machines to work with these variable length symbols. Around 1874, Baudot designed his code with fixed-length, 5-bit symbols. This allowed development of simpler, faster teletype machines. Morse code continued to be used for manual transmissions and, from the 1890s, radio, but has now virtually died out. Baudot code was developed into Murray code and ITA2 (still used for amateur radioteletype), and became the forerunner of the ASCII code used in computers today.

posted on Mon, 10/30/2006 - 6:36pm
Luiza's picture
Luiza says:

sooooo, the message in boudot code means "X&Y"

posted on Thu, 01/05/2006 - 9:12pm
bryan kennedy's picture

Yes, exactly. That's what this code says.

posted on Fri, 01/06/2006 - 9:16am
Sarah's picture
Sarah says:

Can you tell me how to make the binary numers, I am looking for A M P and I've found that the letters are 00011, 11100, and 10110 but how do I translate that into an image?

posted on Wed, 02/15/2006 - 10:04am
bryan kennedy's picture

Well, there isn't a convention for how you would graphically display binary numbers. In most cases you would just write the numbers. But if you wanted to get artistic you could always assign some graphical element like a color to 0 and some other element to 1. Like this:
binary representation of the letters AMP

posted on Wed, 02/15/2006 - 10:51am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I would allso like to translate something in to a image. I think I understand how to do that. I would just like to know what do the different coulours mean? For example in the album cover. And how can I use them?

posted on Sat, 10/28/2006 - 3:08pm
Jim's picture
Jim says:

The colours individually mean nothing on the album cover - they are just for decoration. The code is made up of columns of colours. Each column is a symbol made up of five spaces, representing binary bits. The bit is 0 if it is the background colour, or 1 if it is a pair of other colours. The full code is given inside the album sleeve, or look at http://www.coldplace.co.uk/xygen.asp - a web page that encodes text for you.

posted on Mon, 10/30/2006 - 6:46pm
Shippy's picture
Shippy says:

Erm, it actually says , 23,27,3,21 - which is, X,shift,3,Y.

Which is actually, X9Y, NOT X&Y..

someone cocked up :)

posted on Fri, 12/29/2006 - 8:04am
NSRB's picture
NSRB says:

yeah that's true... It's X9Y not X&Y

posted on Wed, 01/31/2007 - 1:44am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Can anyone know why name of album is "x&y" ? what that represent ? :-)

posted on Thu, 01/25/2007 - 7:41pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

ok i wanna know how to make those signs like in te x and y album

posted on Sun, 10/28/2007 - 11:02am

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