This morning there’s stardust floating on my coffee. An ancient asteroid belt suckling the heat of my black cup. Circling on a film that projects my memory to when I was much older.
I lived in an old folks home and I had a magic addiction. Anything to do with magic I would buy, grind into a fine powder and eat. Sometimes, if I didn’t have my grinder. I would eat whatever trick it was with a knife and fork. The effects were always immediate. I would disappear or levitate. Other times I would fly away like a dove or shimmer like a lake of jewels. It was a delightful experience until one day I turned into a black hat from which nothing could be pulled out of, not even myself.
I remember praying to the light, to deliver me from the darkness. After that it gets kinda foggy. There was nothing but a rolling silence and then a pulsating red glow. For a time I seemed to be a kind of firework flower. Slowly blooming out and around myself until I was born again into the light. My mother held me to her breast and began to sing.
Helen Friel’s “Here’s Looking at Euclid”
Mathematics is like art; you either understand the concepts (i.e., you ‘get it’), or you become completely lost when coming into contact with them. Some people are able to understand both complex theories and expressions in art, and equations that, for some people, look like a bag of numbers and symbols exploded onto a piece of paper. In 1847, Oliver Byrne, a civil engineer and author, published a book called “Euclid’s Elements” which used coloured graphic explanations of each geometric principle. The style of graphics is similar to that of the Bauhaus and De Stijl movements, but since the book predates each, it could very well have been an inspiration for the creativity of the modernists.
Fast forward to the present, and a new rebirth of this book’s mathematical illustrations is inspiring paper engineer and illustrator Helen Friel to create three-dimensional sculpture replicas of the exact graphics in the book. The artists’ series, entitled “Here’s Looking at Euclid” (2012) uses the instructions found in Byrne’s book to create tangible mathematical theorems in the palm of your hand. Sure, it is a cool sculpture all on its own, but it is also an amazing tool to help teach people these theorems, especially those who are more visual learners and have difficulty concentrating on a page full of numbers.
If you would like to make one of these sculptures yourself, you can download and make your very own paper model of Pythagoras’ Theorem here.