Thursday, April 4, 2019

Inspired by hyperbolic crochet

It's been a year now since the 2nd edition of my book "Crocheting Adventures with the Hyperbolic Planes" came out. I was reluctant originally to work on it because my original publisher AK Peters was gone - bought by CRC Press. The editor of CRC Press was patient and persistent talking me into making this 2nd edition promising that it will be a beautiful book, that CRC Press will do very good advertising, that they will make sure the book will get the attention it deserves as a winner of Euler Book Prize etc. David was willing again to do typesetting, he was so enthusiastic of that. I wanted to devote this book to him, he was humble about that and suggested that it should be in memory of Bill Thurston. Last year my beloved high school math teacher would turn 100, so I chose to devote this book to three men who each in their own way showed me the beauty of geometry. I had a certain reservation of putting David's name between names of two men who were dead. David said that it is ok, that he is happy with that. It was our last completed writing project together...

When the book first came out and I saw its high price, I knew that it will be a failure, it will not sell. In following months indeed I saw sales rising on 1st edition which was cheaper. Well, sales... I better do not follow Amazon author sales rank. If I look there, it makes me deeply regret we spent time working on this book instead travelling to places we dreamed to go during our last year together...I was asking CRC Press to provide me with the list where they have sent review copies, they just brushed me away saying that they have widely sent out copies for review and reviewers are just too busy, that it will take about a year to see reviews. Now the year is gone and thee is exactly one review - on Amazon customer's review giving 5 stars to the book and saying: "Amazing and insightful. Hyperbolic geometry is common and extremely useful, but the subject is almost always taught in an arcane way. This book allows a more intuitive approach in understanding, which is critical for applied mathematicians."

During this past year I have seen other books coming out and their promotions and advanced praises, reviews - I am happy for those authors having great agents and nice publishers. I will never ever work with any academic publisher. After the accident which killed David, I was not able even to look at my book without deep sorrow thinking of wasted time. Until an e-mail came...

Few weeks ago I received a letter from Amanda Shayna Ahteck which I will quote in its entity (with the permission of its sender). It brought back in me the pride of an educator, that great happiness of making at least a small change in this world, inspiring young minds to create. Now I have a strength to work on a project we were both planning on doing this winter. It is hard to do it without David but I have to make sure that his vision of geometry will stay alive and through his writing he will continue to teach.

"My name is Amanda Shayna Ahteck. I’m currently a senior at Holmdel High School and I’m writing to you today to just say how much your work has inspired me.
I saw an article about you in the SAT reading section for the December 2017 SAT exam. Although I may not remember anything else from that standardized test (good riddance), the main points of the article really stuck with me. It was just amazing how you solved the decades-old problem of hyperbolic plane models with a little insight from your childhood activity of crocheting. I went home and searched up “hyperbolic crochet” and listened to your TED talk. I ended up sitting for a few hours after I found a PDF explaining the stitch increases as they related to the equation’s exponential growth, picking up some teal acrylic yarn and a 4.00 mm hook to crochet my own hyperbolic plane.
This experience changed the way I look at mathematics. It was hard to find the equation intimidating when it’s a cuddly concept made of acrylic yarn. I so appreciate the beauty of mathematics and some artistic insight. Suddenly I saw the connections between conic sections in my calculus class and the transformations to shapes and paths I could make as an amateur graphic designer in Adobe Illustrator vector graphics. (I suppose that should have been my first clue, vectors in graphics, but now I just wonder why they don’t teach it in high school with at least some kind of digital art application.)
In a different way, your repurposing of crochet technique for mathematics inspired another interesting project of mine. Later in my junior year of high school (early 2018) I was crocheting under my desk in physics class. Of course, I knew I should have probably been paying more attention to my teacher, but while he was explaining the resistance and resistivity formulas, I was connecting to the crochet in my hands. I could see how a wire with the geometry of a chain stitch would stretch when pulled, decreasing its thickness, increasing its length, and changing the resistance. With an elastic band through the core, the chain would contract back to the looped geometry of the chain stitch, separating the threads and returning to the original resistance.
So I borrowed some stainless steel conductive thread from my school's Makerspace and sought to crochet a bunch of these stretch sensors. I tested their resistances with a multimeter, assembled them with a programmed microcontroller, and ultimately created a prototype for a device that rests on the back of your hand and on the second knuckle, allowing you to type in mid-air. I called the project, the “midiKEY” after its usage of midi rings that rest above the second knuckle and the whole function of mapping different combinations of sensor input to send certain keystrokes over a Bluetooth signal.
I wrote a (very informal) paper on its development and submitted it to the Regeneron Science Talent Search, where I was named a Top 300 Scholar, the first in my high school’s history to ever do so. I’ve presented my poster and prototypes to the Jersey Shore Science Fair, my region’s first round of qualifications in the process leading up to the International Science and Engineering Fair ISEF, and placed first in the Engineering category with an award of recognition from the local IEEE chapter. I’ll be presenting at the next level of competition in early April, with high hopes. I’m working on a patent or two soon, but there’s still some homework and problem sets to be done.
It’s been an incredible experience. I know it’s fairly far removed from real academia and real research and everything, but I’ve loved the outreach opportunities that have come with these competitions. Being able to explain what I’m doing to the public both old and young alike is just the most fulfilling thing. I keep tangible models of my sensors around my display so that people can truly visualize, stretch, and interact with it, like we should interact with any mathematics or science concept anyway. In presenting to the public, I’ve represented my school, advocated for Makerspaces, and even made contact with other high schools in the area to help kickstart their own research programs. Of course, I look forward to getting involved in academic research in my college years, but I feel as though early encouragement about path of inquiry integrating classwork outside the classroom set me on an inspired course.
But I just wanted to thank you and all your work. That little bit of insight from my similar childhood experience with crochet and your story inspired me so greatly. "


Friday, March 8, 2019

In Memorium - David W Henderson (1939-2018)

On December 19, 2018 we drove from Philadelphia, where we visited David's siblings, to Winterthur. It was a beautiful morning - sunny, with light frost covering fields, windy scenic road to the museum. There we enjoyed Garden Tour and then display of Christmas decorations, decided that we should return in spring to see all those beautiful flowers; had lunch - tasty wild mushroom soup. I asked David - would he like some pecan pie, and he answered - why not. How could we know that that was our last meal together... I wanted to stop for night at Lewes but David said we should continue a little further. We stopped at Bethany Beach. Checked in hotel and asked where could we have a nice meal. We were suggested Cottage Cafe, just across the road. I wish we would never tried to cross that road... It was the darkest day of the year. It became the darkest day of my life.

Remebering David here are some of his writing about mathematics from his journals.

One learns by being confronted with an image different from one’s own image until one is confronted with a block in themselves. Learning is the breaking thru that block such that one sees more clearly. 
Mathematics (or should I say geometry?) is looking at how we see (view) our universe. The whole universe not just space-time but the mental and spiritual universe also.

It helps us to see what is behind the forms we construct to hold us in. These forms protect us, guide us, help us. These forms are formed by one’s consciousness.
To me mathematics have to be experienced/ In music we have musical notation ( or musical theory). Analogous we have mathematical notation and mathematical theory. But to, me the real meaning is directly experienced. Like listening to music.  

By “experience” I mean more than physical experience. We experience ideas and images. We experience “seeing” the whole ball with its center all at once. We experience ourselves growing (changing). All I can physically senses is some aspects of myself at a given instant in time. Yet I have an image of (sense of) my life as a whole changing from one point in time to another. It’s very similar to imagining the ball as a whole

 Geometry can say something about you.Geometry is a way of looking at your world. Take charge of it – make it yours. Understand how you see things and see how you understand things.
Think of what we are embarking on together as a stroll in the woods. I will show you paths that I have trod and point to what I have seen. I have been there many times before – but oh! – there is much more to see that I have not yet seen. You, with your unique vision, will point out to me things that I have passed by. Feel free to explore – look under stones, down in hollow stumps. You can find a rivulet of water that if followed will lead to the sea. But just as valuable are the little surprises that spark something inside – a trillium in a spot of sun, a scarlet eft wriggling under a fallen leaf. Do not hurry “to get somewhere” – linger a while—listen—see what’s around where you are.

Textiles and MOOOI

Do you know what is moooi
I was visiting moooi showroom and a talk about textiles in NYC just before leaving for Riga last fall. I had already put in all these pictures for the blog and was going to write a text while in Riga. However, it all got left unfinished because of shocking experience in Riga - my apartment there was vandalized, police did not care. (Few month later I got a response that the guy living there just have thrown out Soviet type furniture to make space for him, the rest of my claim was just ignored, giving me 10 days to appeal which was impossible due to events I will talk in next blog entry.) Then I got dragged in in even stranger event - suspected Russian spy case and had to protect myself in the city I was born and lived most of my life as a citizen of United States. That all wiped out all I wanted to write about Textiles and Moooi but since I have these pictures, I decided to leave them here.