My mom sent me an article from Discover Magazine a few months ago that I thought was really interesting and nerdy, but it involved knitting. It concerned this mathematician who tried modeling a hyperbolic plane by knitting it. Well, crocheting. I'm no expert in geometry, but basically instead of the flat geometric planes we know of, hyperbolic planes curve out from a center point and continue to curve on. So basically, hyperbolic theory states that instead of the space being a series of intersecting or parallel flat planes, space has a curvature nature. What exactly this means in the bigger picture, I have no idea. Like I said, I’m not a mathematician. Apparently, mathematicians struggled for many years trying to produce a physical model of a hyperbolic plane. Enter: a knitter/crocheter/mathematician from Cornell University. Basically, she crocheted a 3-dimensional ruffle, and said "here you go" this is what a hyperbolic plane "looks like".
What I enjoyed about this story is the overlap of two skills that seemingly didn't have anything to do with each other. I admire Dr. Taimina’s creativity (also: score one for team girl!) . The Discover article isn't online, but Interweave Crochet published an article on it, which you can read here. The article includes a crochet pattern so you too can produce a hyperbolic plane model. You know you want to.
Knitters can find a pattern here.
So when someone asks you what the heck that ruffled mass of yarn is, you can say in typical know-it-all egg-head fashion: "a hyperbolic plane, duh!"