Knot theory

The mechanics, mathematics, and ancient technology of knitting is the subject of a new study, “What a Tangled Web We Weave,” by Elisabetta Matsumoto, an applied mathematician and physicist at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

This great New York Times article describes her study in greater depth.
Knitted fabric is also a metamaterial. A length of yarn is all but inelastic, but when configured in slipknots — in patterns of knits and purls — varying degrees of elasticity emerge.
“Just based on these two stitches, these two fundamental units, we can make a whole series of fabrics, and each of these fabrics has remarkably different elastic properties,” Dr. Matsumoto told the audience.

Myself, I am no knitter – my mother and sister are, and many friends – and now I am more intrigued to learn. I experiment with paper and its own structural and elastic properties when folded and manipulated – those models can often be extrapolated and used with other materials. If you don’t follow Kelli Anderson‘s work, you should – so cool.

I wonder at the crossover applications with fabric analysis. The article mentions applications in game engines and animation software (also check out this amazing organization in Africa using knitting to teach coding), but I wonder at applications even in cell regrowth and larger scale constructions.

Imagining the future

Certainly it’s time to admit that our current setups (transportation, housing, energy) are no longer viable and need immediate restructuring from the individual to largest scales…so imagining what the future of cities might look or sound like is important work.

Sounds have not been exploited to the extent our visual landscapes have been modified and structured, as host sites for advertisements and explorations of themes. But can they be used in a similar way?

This CR article brought up some interesting ideas…I especially liked thinking about how music can affect one’s mood “Interactive sonic façades on the side of public buildings could be designed specially to enhance the mood of the environment whilst also tempering background noise pollution.” Also, thinking about how sound can inform us, “…as we move into a screenless age where visual interaction is losing ground to voice recognition, the audible ‘earconography’ of the city will become ever more important. These will be short, nonintrusive and aesthetically pleasing sound sets that let consumers know they are interacting with or travelling through a certain branded or public space. “

food for thought-

By Design

Take the 20 minutes needed to watch this film, “Segregated by Design.”

Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, narrates the visuals designed and animated by Mark Lopez of Silkworm Studio.

It’s a good reminder that our current pres may be the face representing ugly truths about this country, but that the depth of prejudice and oppression against minorities, specifically African Americans, in the United States, has a long and powerful history of deliberate design.

Red zone property values, highways designed to interrupt African American neighborhoods, and other unconstitutional policies exploiting and targeting people and neighborhoods, preventing economic advancement.

You probably know about these policies already, but lest we forget – similar policies of systemic oppression are designed, delivered, and enforced, in current times. Watch – listen – learn – fight the power.

On behalf of our government, we must change to make things better.

Powered by Honda

The new Honda ad from Digitas UK is striking in its style and pace.

From the first frames, the ad plays like a Transformers sequence – 2D lines and bold swatches of color, racing quickly by the viewer. The ad showcases a variety of Honda vehicles (including planes + speedboats), and closes with real footage of racing vehicles.

It’s not the first Honda ad that has carried a unique style – this one by PES is still one of my favorites.

It’s All a Process

I’m at a point in my career – and life – where I’m trying to redefine the nature of my role. It’s all a process, and I can see the path behind me, what brought me here, all the times I started something new…and I enjoy the adventure of not quite knowing how the rest of it will be.

Henrique Barone’s recent post on Motionographer beautifully describes his own path, from TV animation to school in Canada, to years working with Giant Ant, and then with the birth of their daughter, how he and his wife had to adjust their “keystone”, their commitment to their professional life, with one more focused on flexibility for their child.

He writes “Having kids it’s the only real and unbreakable life long commitment someone will ever do. Everything else, every other commitment or agreement can be either undone or broken but, from now on, Fer is a mom and will forever be a mom; I’m a dad and will forever be a dad. This is our black and white spot in a grey and ever-changing world. A solid point on our liquid lives. That is our new, and stronger, keystone.”

I made the same choice when my son was born – leaving a job that was really fulfilling – to work freelance. And with the birth of my daughter three years later, I knew I needed to keep flexible hours to be there for all the infinite things of the early years. I have continued to work and experiment on my own work and as a freelancer, but in the last year I wish for a taller platform from which to share my work. Or a larger network – I’m not sure the right solution. More creative input, not just production skills. The older I become, the more certain I am that there is not one right answer. It’s all a process. One must revisit and revise. I have this quote from Antonio Machado in my sketchbook: “Traveler, there is no path…the path is made by walking.”

Images and animation

I have long loved and followed the amazing work of William Kentridge.

He is always experimenting with format and technique, while keeping a consistent and recognizable style and subject.

He creates films using his charcoal drawings – he is an animator, yet remains firmly rooted and thriving in the art world. Perhaps because I arrived to animation after art, and have worked for years in the commercial realm, keeping one eye, hand and foot* in the more creative and artistic world, I admire his ability to do so and try to steer and navigate to do the same.

His installation, “The Refusal of Time,”from 2012, is a work about time, space and the legacies of colonialism and industry. He references early cinema, the science of time and imagery.

Lately I’ve been experimenting with anamorphic drawings, like the projections for his film “What Will Come“, which initially motivated me to revisit his work. Always inspiring – time well-spent

*if I’m lucky and work hard to do so!

Artificial Creativity?

For those who fear that computers will replace us all, fear not…we are still more than a sum of huge data sets. The creativity and unpredictability in our world may be that which is our greatest asset.

Many are in favor of trying to develop creative streaks and problem-solving skills within AI networks. “New artificial intelligence systems are using adversarial networks to develop creativity and originality by more fluidly mixing and matching real-world information.” – Chris Baraniuk for Scientific American.

GANs are able to use the information and source material fed to it by humans to create a lot of new material, but guidelines are established to assist in the decision-making process. So the next step is to train the network on when to follow the rules and when to discard them and follow their own path. Exciting / scary? I think some of both.

Serious business

These recent ads by Anomaly London and Blink Ink (Alex Grigg x Joe Pelling) for Bulb (a renewable energy company in the U.K.) are lovely in their comedic timing and delivery, and the simplicity of line. It’s a serious business: making energy renewable, greener, cheaper…delivered in a form that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The fan made me laugh out loud:

The Replicator!

This is so cool – a new approach to 3D printing.

The Replicator works like a reverse CT scan, translating a 3D computer model into a full series (to describes the 360 degree rotation around the object) of 2D images that are projected into a container of resin – the areas of strongest light becomes solid. Article and video here! More flexible than layered 3D printing, and smoother results too. For medical applications this could be especially useful. Here’s to progress and always moving things forward.

Bias and artificial intelligence

A few months ago, I started following the amazing Janelle Shane who works with electrical engineering, optics, and neural networks (AI weirdness)…there are some spooky / hilarious GAN images (it can really go either way), absurd character names, recipes (for disaster?), knock-knock jokes, and so much good info to follow on how these networks are trained and refined…the brilliant solutions they come up with and the mistakes they make. Some of the best fails end up here.

GAN-generated birdhouse

Also, I read the news and I’ve been thinking about how deep biases and specifically racist tendencies can go in humans, and how that might show up in AI. If we can refine those algorithms and decision-making biases in the neural networks (which are, after all, loosely based on human brain connections), maybe we can redirect some human malfunction too.