Monday
Oct032011

It was not so long ago, that the average person believed in only three spatial dimensions and one time dimension. However, during the 20th century, some notable physicists argued that simply because we can not see certain dimensions does not mean they are not there.

In 1921, mathematician Theodor Kaluza, and physicist Oscar Klein, proposed a theory that extended Einstein’s theory of general relativity to include one extra spatial dimension.  This theory is known, not surprisingly, as the Kaluza-Klein Theory. Klein later imagined this dimension would be a wildly minuscule curled up space. Most significantly however, their cutting edge theory called for only a minimum of four spatial dimensions with an indefinite maximum number, foreshadowing deepening chasms of undetected space...

 



In the later part of the 20th century, it became obvious that if reality was indeed composed of tiny filaments instead of tiny dots, these threads would need extra spatial dimensions in order to adequately knit up into our material world. This Calabi-Yau Manifold was an early model for six dimensional space. Unfortunately, with many different versions, scientists had no way of knowing which was the right model. Calabi-Yau spaces were named in 1984 after mathematicians Eugenio Calabi and Shing-Tung Yau, who had been investigating these destinations well before they appeared relevant to our cause.

 

 

Caroline Byrne was only 4 years old when she drew this early illustration of a Photon Articulator.  It was 1980 and research was underway in the field of sub atomic matter.  You can find an exact replica of this illustration at our Museum. 

 


Edward Witten was the leading physicist of the day. When, in the 1990’s, theories of sub atomic strings were everywhere and nowhere, he came to the rescue with the unifying “M-theory”.  Witten, in a sense, molded together various theories of strings, creating not only loops, but blobs and disks which he called “branes”.  His findings were really too strange to explain in this blurb. 

Most shockingly, he concluded that we must be living in a world of ten spatial dimensions, which adding on the necessary time dimension of course, created a total of eleven dimensions.

 

 

At exactly the same time, Daina Taimina, a famous turn of the century mathematician, crocheted amorphous objects to illustrate “hyperbolic” or negatively curved space. Note the similarity between both the Calabi-Yau Manifold and the knit Photon Articulator. Taimina was likely an early inspiration for Caroline Byrne as she was an example of a mathematician who had used her passion for beauty and her knowledge of textiles to guide her models.

She was teaching at Cornell during the same period that Byrne was studying there. While many scholars believe their paths must have crossed, this is highly unlikely: Taimina was not well known at the time and Byrne was a lowly undergrad who received a C- in the one math class that was required of her.

 

                       

 Between 1994 and 1998 Caroline Byrne studied at Cornell University. She had a difficult time earning her Bachelors of Science Degree in Textiles and Apparel within The College of Human Ecology. Passionate but unfocused and more interested in her fiction classes; it would be years before Byrne could conceive of her true calling.  Still, these early studies of molecular fiber structures and fabric development were significant for obvious reasons. 



By the end of the 1990's Caroline Byrne was well into her "lost 20's", and living in New York City.  She often worked as a “Specification Technician” in the clothing industry. Measuring shirts and pants (and occasionally jackets) was dull but comforting work; the numbers and basic math involved suggested order must exist within the seemingly convoluted world.

It is impossible to imagine her life in New York without also envisioning the young Albert Einstein in Bern, Switzerland: inconspicuosly evaluating patent applications for electromagnetic devices.

 

                                         

Caroline Byrne's tedious days measuring were balanced by her monotonous nights spinning yarn.  Yarn was Byrne's all encompasing obsession in the beginning of the 21st century. She was likely influenced by both the "DIY" trend of the times, and a more personal antagonism toward the clothing industry and her city life.  In these two yarns, especially the one on the left, it is easy to see how she played with the forces of energy hidden in the strands rather than try to control them.  This characteristic would later prove to be integral in her approach toward knitting the Photon Articulator. 


  

In 2008, Caroline Byrne fled to the woods of Vermont and created these baskets.  Note the similarity between them and the Photon Articulator she created a year later; her fascination with light, symmetry, and mischievious hiding dimensions was quite apparent at this point. We believe her friend Tarrah Krajnak took this striking picture. 

 

                               

Physicist Ronald Mallett realized the value of light shaping devices several years before Caroline Byrne.  In his “Space Time Twisting by Light” experiment, He suggests it is possible to create a closed time-like curve by using light that has been twisted by being passed though a photonic crystal. In retrospect, we wonder if the “Photon Articulator” was inspired by “Photonic Crystal”?  These illuminating instruments can be found in nature (Opals would make a fine example) or manufactured. 

 

 

Here Caroline Byrne is busy at work in her studio at The Cranbrook Academy of Art where she attended Graduate School between 2009 and 2011.  You can see both early prototypes for the Photon Articulator and the various textbooks she read voraciously.  A piece of her pre-articulator "Photon Fabric" can be found at the Photon Articulator Museum. 

 

 

 Click on image for another look at the Photon Articulator!

Unfortunately, the original Photon Articulator has been lost forever. We do know it was knit by hand with the finest of monofilaments. Historians conclude dimensions were approximately 16"x 24"x 12" and it weighed no more than seven ounces. It was created in December of 2009, at the end of Byrne's first semester at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. 

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