A ball of sky blue yarn and a tangle of crochet has been sitting my desk all week, expanding like the universe. It’s not my usual prep, but for this week’s show on numbers, beauty and the underlying order of the cosmos I got to talk with Margaret Wertheim, physicist, science communicator and crochet superstar.
Margaret makes crochet models of non-Euclidean hyperbolic space in dazzling Darwinian variety. Imagine woolly sea slugs, anemones, kale and kelp — sea creatures from outer space. To make one is to experience what Margaret calls ‘embodied mathematics’ — the intersection of higher geometry and feminine handicraft.
Margaret made me think about my own knitting in a new way — as a tool for meditating on and even participating in the deep design of the universe. In the same hour, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Frank Wilczek talks about the language of pattern and the mathematical elegance and beauty of nature’s underlying laws. Both of them have me reflecting on the metaphors we so often use to describe the cosmos: the fabric of spacetime; the web of life; strands of DNA. As Margaret jokes, “Perhaps God is crocheting the universe!”