Mathematician and Cornell adjunct professor Daina Taimina discovered 13 years ago that her handiness at crochet, a vestige of her Latvian schooling, is a perfect medium for describing one of the hardest-to-grasp concepts in geometry – the hyperbolic plane.
Taimina has been interviewed on NPR and exhibited her work – colorful yarn creations of all sizes that resemble fanciful sea creatures, maybe, or intricately layered leafy vegetables – at shows in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.
Now her new book, “Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes,” has received Britain’s Diagram Prize for the oddest book title of the year.
(A few past winners: “The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories,” “Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice” and “How to Avoid Huge Ships.”)
The person who chooses the winning title in the contest earns a magnum of champagne or a bottle of claret, according to Wikipedia. The actual winner gets . . . well, publicity.
The unintuitive concept of the hyperbolic plane, which is not describable by an equation, creates all kinds of unexpected and non-Euclidian geometric possibilities. Triangles whose interior angles add up to zero, for example, or parallel lines that diverge.
The shapes may be odd. But the ones created by Taimina are also oddly beautiful.
- Lauren Gold