Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Taking a Break for Math Fun

I learned binary numbers as a child (how long ago? So long, long ago—while JFK was still a living president.) I learned Octal at the same time. I thought both were stupid ideas. (Hey, I was a kid, what did I know?)

Come 1980's—I got my first home computer.. a TI 99/4A-a 16 bit computer. It used a TI OS that was based on mainframes--(years later, my son a Unix nerd, recognized some of Unix print code commands as being identical to the TI ones) –But what mattered most—the TI didn't use DOS (the original DOS was written for an 8 bit computer. To this day, my knowledge of DOS is pretty sparse.)

One cool thing about the TI was you could design and write your own code for characters. (and there were 125 blank characters you could program!)
Each character was an 8 X 8 matrix of pixels By turning individual pixels on or off—you could make any characters desired.

After a few minutes working with character design—a light went on in my head—the code for design was EXPRESSED in HEX—which was short hand to the binary. Hex 41 (the letter A in Ascii) was
0100 0001.

All the knowledge of binary came back to me (I have close to an eidetic memory) and in no time, I was quite competent in HEX. I taught my then 10 year old son HEX and Binary, (and some octal, too, but most of the octal he learned on his own) Then I taught his 6th grade class too, as a guest--when his teacher and the school principle learned I knew and had taught my son.

And almost immediately, just as I recognized the connection between hex and bin, I recognized the connection between bin and knitting.

I CAN Think in knitting (and then translate knitting to binary) much better than I can think in binary and translate to knitting. That is because I learned knitting first. I can do simple arithmetic in binary (any single digit + any other single digit). But for most operations, I need to change Bin to Decimal (and for most numbers, (any number over 16) translating from Decimal to HEX requires a computer or calculator.)

Years later, I found this essay—and loved it.. (it was so good to know I wasn't the only crazy nerd who saw a connection between knitting and binary!)

Every since I saw the connection, I've thought it would be fun to knit a message, using binary code (0=Knit, 1=Purl) but like many an idea, its been sitting on a back (way back!) burner for years.
Well not any more!

For the Maker's Faire—coming for the first time to NYC—Robyn Love and Lion Brand are sponsoring a project—and my contribution to the project will be a binary message to the universe. (You can also find Robyn on Ravelry)

My message:
is spelled out in knits and purls.

For simplicity. The message is all cap's:
FREEDOM(8 characters/each expressed in 8 stitches (an 8 X 8 grid)
(space)beauty(space)—8 more characters—the second 8 X 8 grid
LOVE(space)AND( the next set of 8) the third 8 X 8 grid
(space)TRUTH(dot)(space) the last set of 8 characters—The final grid.

Between each grid—some plain knitting(garter) and some lines.. (to make a nicely spaced out 12 X 12 inch block.)
Each 8 X 8 grid is outlined in stocking knit (so 3 stitches in garter (edging) a single stocking knit stitch, 8 stitches of binary code, another single stocking knit stitch, 2 stitches in garter, stocking knit, 8 stitches of binary, a stocking knit stitch, and finally, an other garter stitch border. (28 stitches in each row)--just incase you want to try to read/decode the message.

Between the blocks of binary text, there some cross wise rows of stocking knit (top, middle and bottom)AKA Continuous Cross Stritch). The cast on and Cast off are my matching double chain ones.
Which also create cross wise bands of chain stitches--and a unifying design element.

For more information about this project, see Robyn's blog and web site, and Lion Brands site, too. (links above)

There is still time for you to knit a message to the universe--(even if you don't chose to do it in mathematics—which is surely the language of the Universe.)

Or to come see to the Maker's Faire and enjoy!
(PS--after the Faire, this square and all the others will be refashioned into blankets (Warm Up America volunteers)


plnc said...

Neat post! Thanks for keeping our minds working :-)

Jena said...

this is amazing :) My 3 year old has been writing messages in 1's and 0's (the only numbers she can write) so I've been teaching her binary. Now I can knit what she writes, thanks for the idea!