For years, the form of space was thought to be Euclidean, ranging off indefinitely, seemingly flat. Measurements as we knew them seemed to confirm this.
In the last twenty years or so, measurements have suggested that the universe may be hyperbolic, may be finite. That's sorta ... exciting! What's beyond the universe? How will we find out? What is the shape of this present universe? How can it be expanding, yet have some kind of weird shape?
Dr. Daina Taimina first sought to make a hyperbolic model with crocheted shapes, and she succeded. They're everywhere, and patterns can be found on Ravelry (36 for 'hyperbolic' alone) and all over the Internet (I found 57,100 pages on Google when I searched 'hyperbolic crochet pattern'). Hyperbolic crochet is hot.
I think it's interesting that the shape of something like the human brain, a coral reef, and the universe all share a similar feature with Grandma's doilies. I think women have always known, deep down, that We Understood The Shape Of The Universe and Everything. (Well, ok, crocheting men maybe, too.)
Dr. Jeffery Weeks, a freelance geometer (what a cool job that would be!) has calculated if the universe is finite, it's hyperbolic radius might be 18 billion light years. The Institute For Figuring (IFF) said that "The WMAP [Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe] satellite currently taking pictures of the early universe will hopefully provide evidence one way or other in the next few years, so that humanity may at last know the shape of existence itself." The satellite has been finished with the evidence for two years, when NASA concluded its observations of the cosmic microwave background, the oldest light in the universe. Did it prove the existence of a hyperbolic universe and I missed it? Do they need more time to go through the results? This is the kind of thing I wonder about.
(photo credits: the human brain; a coral reef; a model of a hyperbolic universe)
Oh, and Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone! Beannachtai Na Feile Padraig Oraibh!