Two Sticks and a String Theory

“Now, let us all take a deep breath and forge on into the future,
knitting at the ready.” –Elizabeth Zimmermann

Pass the Nobel Prize, please. I’m on the brink of solving the riddles of the universe by proving a correlation between string theory and… drum roll please…knitting. Stay with me now, a lot of theories that have proven to be true sound ridiculous at first.

Here’s a bit of proof for my premise. String theory is based on the interaction of elementary particles, bosons and fermions. Knitting is based on two elementary stitches, the knit and the purl. Once you have gotten the hang of these stitches you can go on to make almost anything. And, at least in theory, physicists can do the same with those elementary particles, once they figure out how to do it without destroying the universe. Knitting is much less risky, but it can be equally frustrating.

One stitch is sometimes all it takes.
Knit One Below: One Stitch, Many Fabrics

Or just one particle can do the trick.
The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World

Scientists working with string theory can experiment with the different forms of elementary particles. Creating concepts with these particles uses tools ranging from something as simple as a pencil and paper to something as complex as a Large Hadron Collider. Knitting, in its most basic form requires 2 or more fairly straight items such as knitting needles, pencils, broom handles, or your fingers, and something to twist between them such as string, wire, dog hair, dental floss, and so on and on. While it would seem at first glance that knitting has the advantage over string theory in this example, string theory does encompass the whole universe, so I’d call it a draw.

I’ve never intentionally knit with dog hair, but the idea intrigues me.
Knitting with Dog Hair: Better a Sweater from a Dog you Know than From a Sheep You’ll Never Meet

Warning: this little book contains huge ideas.
The Little Book of String Theory

There’s the link of unpredictability between knitting and physics to be considered, as well. Observations of how the universe works will sometimes look for repeated patterns of events to predict what will happen in the future. Knitters work with patterns, too. And, just as observed patterns in physics don’t always bring the expected results, a knitting pattern doesn’t always turn out the way you think it will.

Knitters tend to hold strong opinions about every aspect of knitting from needles to yarn, techniques to tools. Physicists such as Stephen Hawking, Richard Feynman, Sheldon Glashow and Leonard Susskind are no different when it comes to string theory. Knitting  has benefited and advanced from people introducing new ideas and techniques. The dedication, knowledge and innovative thinking of people like Elizabeth ZimmermannAlice Starmore and so many others have changed the way we knit and think about knitting.If physicists and knitters ever had the opportunity to get together and share ideas all of the riddles of the universe would probably be solved.

This woman changed the world of knitting forever.
The Opinionated Knitter: Newsletters 1958 – 1968

This man has changed our understanding of the universe.
Stephen Hawking: An Unfettered Mind

Imagine what would happen if these two could ever meet!

String theorists are trying to understand the forces of the universe, and how they connect with each other. Knitters are engaged in making connections between themselves and the universe. Knitting projects like prayer shawls, yarn bombing and community blankets are a way to create positive energy and associations between people. The First Law of Thermodynamics states that energy cannot be created or destroyed but can be altered to a different form.  The basic idea of knitting is altering materials to a new form, and string theory attempts to explain how the energy of the universe was formed.  Once again, there’s clearly a connection.

I could go on, but I feel that I’ve made my point. Maybe I’m way off base here, but this connection between knitting and string theory makes perfect sense to me. Now all I have to do is convince the Nobel Committee…


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