Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Knitted Higgs

Last week, I knitted a Higgs Boson. I am more than aware that this is even more ridiculous than the "Rosalind" DNA illusion scarf. As least that scarf was (a) inspired by some ideas in the history and sociology of genetics (b) keeps my neck warm and toasty now the nights are drawing in. This is just blue lump (roughly 10cm wide) inspired by little more than a challenge on twitter and embroidery based on a google image search for "higgs boson". And anyway, it's really more a representation of the particle collisions working at the LHC in the search for the Higgs than the boson itself. And um... a very sketchy representation at that.

Knitted Higgs

The reason for actually taking the time to bother to produce the thing was to provide a jokey prize for a competition run to encourage people to pre-order a Geek Calendar. The Geek Calendar project is, arguably, yet another ridiculous idea. Dreamed up in a pub one night, we joked that we could easily sell a calendar of nerds in aid of libel reform (quite a cause in several geeky corners of the UK). We laughed about it on twitter and got a huge response (it trended in London), thought why not and... um... a few months (and 15 photoshoots) later, we've sold several 100 on pre-orders alone already. You can see a tiny preview, but it's not even printed yet.

If I'm honest, I was already slightly sick of the self-conscious re-claiming of the word "geek" even before I started this project (positively retching at it now...). Still, I do think it's worth celebrating the various nerdish elements of contemporary life. People do specialist things. In detail. They get inspired and obsess. And they're cool. This has always been true, but I think it's more obvious today. We rely on detailed specialist knowledge more and more, and the internet has let us connect specialist interests more easily. Whether this is dedication to a cause, an over-achiever hobby or simply sharing a love of antique calculators, there's a lot of this geeking about. We rely on detailed specialist knowledge more and more, and the internet has let us connect specialist interests more easily. Crucially, this sense of specialism means there is no single definition of what a geek likes or does, there are multiple ways to get your geek on, as we all run down our own various rabbit holes. In many ways, knitting is a perfect example of this, the very niche area of science knitting, even more so.

Higgs Boson close up

Check out our flickr to see how much fun I've had at the photoshoots. You can pre-order a calendar now, or proper printed ones will be available from the end of October. If you want to read more about the problems of libel law in the UK, I can recommend this recent essay by Alan Rusbridger.

See also the ravelry project page for info, not that there is much more information there. Really: a blue ball, embroidered, stuffed and closed. That's it. The actual hunt for the Higgs is way more interesting.


Catherine said...

The knitted Higgs has safely arrived at its *very* happy new home in Scotland. It does remind us mostly of a sparkly haggis. Thank you!

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