Saturday, May 26, 2012

Crocheting mathematics

Charlotte Henderson majored in mathematics and English at Wellesley College and has applied her dual interests as an editor for A K Peters, Ltd (a science and technology publisher that is now part of CRC Press).  Several manuscripts on which she has worked at A K Peters have drawn her to the connections between mathematics and art, including needlework. She is particularly interested in the diverse possibilities of crochet, which she learned after working on Daina Taimina's book, Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes.   Charlotte has turned this interest into art and into a poem: 

Crocheted Hyperbolic Plane     by Charlotte Henderson

Powerful, what
I hold in my hands;
Friendship breaker because
The Prince judged us unready.
Impossible (yet made with my hands)
So Hilbert proved, at least in our dimension.
Yet I can perceive, enfold, zero-angle triangle,
Contradiction of Euclid's fifth---powerful postulate that led many
Through disbelief, false proofs housing equivalents, to madness 
          or ruin and me to this:
It must be some trick, newspaper stippling, individual stitches 
          collectively forming this illusion plane.
     Charlotte presented this poem at a reading (that I helped to organize) at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Boston in January 2012.  Inspired by the technique of creating crocheted models of hyperbolic planes, she has said, "Once I had made one for myself, I was able to believe non-Euclidean properties that I had previously accepted with my head but not my heart.   I find both the Möbius band and hyperbolic geometry to be somewhat unintuitive mathematical constructs, which makes them particularly appealing as artistic subjects.  I have crafted my poem so that the form reflects the subject.  In 'Crocheted Hyperbolic Plane' [above] the syllables are treated like stitches in hyperbolic crochet:  for every x syllables in the previous line, an extra syllable is added (an "increase" in crochet). In this poem, x = 4."  
     My own acquaintance with Charlotte began when Sarah Glaz and I worked with her as an editor at A K Peters, Ltd ; over many months she worked cordially and tirelessly with us co-editors to produce a fine collection of poetry-with-mathematics: Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics (A K Peters, 2008). Thanks, Charlotte.

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