Sunday, June 26, 2011

Weekend Project: Going A Bit Overboard...

I am ashamed to tell you to how many figures I carried these computations,

having no other business at the time.

Okay, so maybe I get carried away sometimes... Apparently I’m in good company! ;)

There are people out there who can design beautiful patchwork lanyards in their sleep - they have an intuitive sense of how to combine different lengths of different colors and patterns of fabric to create an overall pattern that is visually interesting and appealing.

I am not one of those. I'm a person who needs a scheme... a system.

For my first lanyard, I used the ever-so-sophisticated scheme of cutting equal length strips of fabric. ;)

But I did get to thinking about other possible structures. And, having completed a degree in Math many years ago (when dinosaurs roamed the Earth), I remembered the Fibonacci series, in which you get each successive number by adding the 2 previous numbers. (There is a bit of cheating to get started.) It looks like this:

0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34...

I thought to myself, "Hey, I could use that to dictate the lengths of each fabric strip in a row..."

From there, I started thinking of other meaningful scientific numbers that could serve as a guide for the lengths of the strips in a lanyard. For example, consider Pi. It begins: 3.1415. I could make a 14 inch strip of fabric that represents Pi like this:

It was a slippery slope, and before I knew it, I was past the point of no return... ;)

I set up a spreadsheet that will allow you to represent any one of 7 meaningful scientific numbers and mathematical series to different levels of precision in a lanyard of any length.

Continuing with the Pi example, if you wanted to make a lanyard approximately 40 inches long, using 7 strips of fabric and representing Pi, here are the lengths (in inches) of each of those strips:

Instead of using 1 inch as a base, you have to use 1 5/8ths of an inch as a base, so that you can get to 40 inches with only the first 7 digits of Pi. But the proportions are maintained - the first strip (representing the "3") is 4 7/8ths inch long, which is 3 times the base length (1 5/8ths).

I hope that makes sense.

Anyways, I didn't even stop there! I found this software add-on that automatically converts spreadsheets to html & java, so that I could convert my spreadsheet to a web page and post it on the internet! Now YOU can use it to design your own scientific lanyards! :)

Check it out here.

If there are some other scientific numbers and/or mathematical series that you'd like me to add to my spreadsheet, just let me know.

So, here is my first scientific lanyard - made for a friend at work, with his favorite number - the golden ratio:

Notice that I added a small black strip for the zero.

If you make a scientific lanyard, send me a picture (or a link to a picture) and I'll post it!

So, go out there and have some systematic, scientific fun! ;)


Cathy said...


CarlaF-in Atlanta said...

OMG! I haven't laughed this hard in a long time. The engineer in me totally appreciates and understands the mathematician in you. Sometimes you just have to see where your thoughts take you.

katherine h said...

I'm a big fan of the golden ratio myself. Good to see you getting use out of that maths degree!