Sunday, October 25, 2009

Quantum to Cosmos

In what kind of town would you find a physics festival for the general public? Well, right here, of course! The Quantum to Cosmos festival was an eleven-day event featuring lectures, exhibits and films to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Perimeter Institute. In contrast to the academic conferences I attend now and then, it was a refreshing change to hear and talk about science with regular (dare I say "normal"?) people. With my usual busy weekday schedule, I didn't get to nearly as many events as I would have liked to attend. However, I did get to a few and plan to view some of the ones I missed on the Web.

Last Saturday, I attended Sean Carroll's talk, The Origin of the Universe and the Arrow of Time, with my friend Sharon. Carroll is a dynamic speaker and I'm planning to check out his book, From Eternity to Here: the Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time.

The next day, Todd and I attended a panel discussion on Seeing Science Through Fiction that included Neal Stephenson, Lee Smolin, and Jaron Lanier. We were accompanied by our friend Mark who has convinced me that I should try Stephenson's novels. Certainly the themes for several of his books, mentioned in the course of the discussion, seem intriguing enough. Apparently, these are substantial tomes and I'll have to wait until I have a good chunk of time to devote to them. Maybe I'll start with Snow Crash.

Later in the week, I watched the documentary The Quantum Tamers: Revealing Our Weird and Wired Future. This was an entertaining and interesting film featuring interviews with a number of physicists around the world, but I'm not sure I understood quantum theory any better by the end of it. Incidentally, my first real exposure to this topic (outside of high-school physics class) was George Gamow's Thirty Years That Shook Physics: The Story of Quantum Theory -- an entertaining and highly readable book, if one can say that about any book on quantum theory.

Today, on the final day of the festival, I took Kate to the Physica Phantastica Exhibit, open to adults and kids of all ages. This included a prototype of the next Mars Rover, a 3D movie about how the universe was formed (including colliding galaxies, no less!), and many other fascinating exhibits. Unfortunately, we missed seeing Mark, even though he'd spent much of the weekend volunteering there in the big tent sent up in the city square.

All in all, it was a terrific festival. Hopefully, we won't have to wait for the Perimeter Institute's 20th anniversary to enjoy another event like this one.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Two-Colour Infant Hat

I made this set for twins whose parents are Harry Potter fans. You can use the Hogwarts house colours, as I have, or any two contrasting colours. There are notes at the end for making a larger size.

Size: 3 months; circumference of 40cm (16in)

Yarn: 1 skein Patons Astra (50g, 147m per skein) in each of two colours, or other DK weight yarn.
For the hats shown in the photographs, I used the following combinations of Patons Astra for colours A and B: Cardinal (02762) and School Bus Yellow (02941); Dark Denim (02777) and Silver Grey Mix (02729); Black (02765) and School Bus Yellow (02941); Forest (02881) and Silver Grey Mix (02729).

Gauge: 22 stitches and 28 rows over 10cm (4in) square using larger needles.

Needles: 3.25 and 4mm (set of 4 double-pointed needles or 2 circular needles) or size to achieve gauge.

K: knit
K2tog: knit 2 together
M1: make one new stitch by picking up, twisting and knitting through bar on previous row

Instructions for Hat:

With colour A and smaller needles, cast on 76 stitches. Join in a round, making sure the row is not twisted and do 10 rounds of 2x2 rib (K2, P2 around).

Change to larger needles. Join colour B and begin fair-isle pattern starting with first round at the bottom of the following chart. In the first round, which is all in colour B, increase 12 stitches as follows: (K6, M1, K6, M1, K7, M1) 4 times. (88 stitches)

Work chart from bottom to top, repeating the 8-stitch pattern to the end of each round. Note that white squares are done in the main colour A and grey squares are done in the contrasting colour B.

Break off colour B and work remainder of hat in colour A. Start decreasing for crown.
First round: (K9, K2tog) 8 times. (80 stitches)
Next round: (K8, K2tog) 8 times. (72 stitches)
Next round: (K7, K2tog) 8 times. (64 stitches)
Next round: (K6, K2tog) 8 times. (56 stitches)
Next round: (K5, K2tog) 8 times. (48 stitches)
Next round: (K4, K2tog) 8 times. (40 stitches)
Next round: (K3, K2tog) 8 times. (32 stitches)
Next round: (K2, K2tog) 8 times. (24 stitches)
Next round: (K1, K2tog) 8 times. (16 stitches)
Next round: K2tog 8 times. (8 stitches)

Draw yarn through all 8 remaining stitches and close tight. Secure yarn in a knot. Weave in ends.

Notes on making a larger size:

Unfortunately, I don't have time right now to work out other sizes. However, I've included some notes below to help you adjust the pattern on your own.

I made this in a child/youth size as follows. Cast on 96 stitches. Do 11 rows of 2x2 ribbing. Increase 16 stitches to 112 stitches on first row by repeating (K6, M1) to end. Do fair-isle pattern, repeating a couple of the narrow bands to increase the height of the hat. Work crown as above except start with (K12, K2tog) on first decrease row, (K11, K2tog) on second, etc. If you don't want to do all the crown shaping in one colour (which leaves a largish area in that colour at the top of the hat), improvise and add in a yellow band, but take care to work the decreases into the pattern. Alternatively, you can add a pompom in the contrasting colour.

You can also increase the size by using a thicker yarn and correspondingly larger needle size.