Researchers from China have developed a new type of yarn for flexible electronics. A March 28, 2018 news item on Nanowerk announces the work, (Note: A link has been removed),
When someone thinks about knitting, they usually don’t conjure up an image of sweaters and scarves made of yarn that can power watches and lights. But that’s just what one group is reporting in ACS Nano (“Waterproof and Tailorable Elastic Rechargeable Yarn Zinc Ion Batteries by a Cross-Linked Polyacrylamide Electrolyte”). They have developed a rechargeable yarn battery that is waterproof and flexible. It also can be cut into pieces and still work.
Most people are familiar with smartwatches, but for wearable electronics to progress, scientists will need to overcome the challenge of creating a device that is deformable, durable, versatile and wearable while still holding and maintaining a charge. One dimensional fiber or yarn has shown promise, since it is tiny, flexible and lightweight. Previous studies have had some success combining one-dimensional fibers with flexible Zn-MnO2 batteries, but many of these lose charge capacity and are not rechargeable. So, Chunyi Zhi and colleagues wanted to develop a rechargeable yarn zinc-ion battery that would maintain its charge capacity, while being waterproof and flexible.
The group twisted carbon nanotube fibers into a yarn, then coated one piece of yarn with zinc to form an anode, and another with magnesium oxide to form a cathode. These two pieces were then twisted like a double helix and coated with a polyacrylamide electrolyte and encased in silicone. Upon testing, the yarn zinc-ion battery was stable, had a high charge capacity and was rechargeable and waterproof. In addition, the material could be knitted and stretched. It also could be cut into several pieces, each of which could power a watch. In a proof-of-concept demonstration, eight pieces of the cut yarn battery were woven into a long piece that could power a belt containing 100 light emitting diodes (known as LEDs) and an electroluminescent panel.
The authors acknowledge funding from the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong Joint Research Scheme, City University of Hong Kong and the Sichuan Provincial Department of Science & Technology.
Here’s an image the researchers have used to illustrate their work,
In a recent (Tuesday, March 6, 2018) live stream ‘conversation’ (‘Science in Canada; Investing in Canadian Innovation’ now published on YouTube) between Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and US science communicator, Bill Nye, at the University of Ottawa, they discussed, amongst many other topics, what AI (artificial intelligence) can and can’t do. They seemed to agree that AI can’t be creative, i.e., write poetry, create works of art, make jokes, etc. A conclusion which is both (in my opinion) true and not true.
There are times when I think the joke may be on us (humans). Take for example this March 6, 2018 story by Alexis Madrigal for The Atlantic magazine (Note: Links have been removed),
SkyKnit: How an AI Took Over an Adult Knitting Community
Ribald knitters teamed up with a neural-network creator to generate new types of tentacled, cozy shapes.
Janelle Shane is a humorist [Note: She describes herself as a “Research Scientist in optics. Plays with neural networks. …” in her Twitter bio.] who creates and mines her material from neural networks, the form of machine learning that has come to dominate the field of artificial intelligence over the last half-decade.
Perhaps you’ve seen the candy-heart slogans she generated for Valentine’s Day: DEAR ME, MY MY, LOVE BOT, CUTE KISS, MY BEAR, and LOVE BUN.
Or her new paint-color names: Parp Green, Shy Bather, Farty Red, and Bull Cream.
Or her neural-net-generated Halloween costumes: Punk Tree, Disco Monster, Spartan Gandalf, Starfleet Shark, and A Masked Box.
Her latest project, still ongoing, pushes the joke into a new, physical realm. Prodded by a knitter on the knitting forum Ravelry, Shane trained a type of neural network on a series of over 500 sets of knitting instructions. Then, she generated new instructions, which members of the Ravelry community have actually attempted to knit.
“The knitting project has been a particularly fun one so far just because it ended up being a dialogue between this computer program and these knitters that went over my head in a lot of ways,” Shane told me. “The computer would spit out a whole bunch of instructions that I couldn’t read and the knitters would say, this is the funniest thing I’ve ever read.”
It appears that the project evolved,
The human-machine collaboration created configurations of yarn that you probably wouldn’t give to your in-laws for Christmas, but they were interesting. The user citikas was the first to post a try at one of the earliest patterns, “reverss shawl.” It was strange, but it did have some charisma.
Shane nicknamed the whole effort “Project Hilarious Disaster.” The community called it SkyKnit.
I’m not sure what’s meant by “community” as mentioned in the previous excerpt. Are we talking about humans only, AI only, or both humans and AI?
Here’s some of what underlies Skyknit (Note: Links have been removed),
The different networks all attempt to model the data they’ve been fed by tuning a vast, funky flowchart. After you’ve created a statistical model that describes your real data, you can also roll the dice and generate new, never-before-seen data of the same kind.
How this works—like, the math behind it—is very hard to visualize because values inside the model can have hundreds of dimensions and we are humble three-dimensional creatures moving through time. But as the neural-network enthusiast Robin Sloan puts it, “So what? It turns out imaginary spaces are useful even if you can’t, in fact, imagine them.”
Out of that ferment, a new kind of art has emerged. Its practitioners use neural networks not to attain practical results, but to see what’s lurking in the these vast, opaque systems. What did the machines learn about the world as they attempted to understand the data they’d been fed? Famously, Google released DeepDream, which produced trippy visualizations that also demonstrated how that type of neural network processed the textures and objects in its source imagery.
Madrigal’s article is well worth reading if you have the time. You can also supplement Madrigal’s piece with an August 9, 2017 article about Janelle Shane’s algorithmic experiments by Jacob Brogan for slate.com.
SkyKnit fancy addite rifopshent
Fingering (14 wpi) ?
24 stitches and 30 rows = 4 inches
in stockinette stitch
US 4 – 3.5 mm
This pattern is available as a free Ravelry download
SkyKnit is a type of machine learning algorithm called an artificial neural network. Its creator, Janelle Shane of AIweirdness.com, gave it 88,000 lines of knitting instructions from Stitch-Maps.com and Ravelry, and it taught itself how to make new patterns. Join the discussion!
SkyKnit seems to have created something that has paralell columns, and is reversible. Perhaps a scarf?
Test-knitting & image courtesy of Chatelaine
Patterns may include notes from testknitters; yarn, needles, and gauge are totally at your discretion.
About the designer
SkyKnit’s favorites include lace, tentacles, and totally not the elimination of the human race.
For more information, see: http://aiweirdness.com/
If you’ve been on the internet today, you’ve probably interacted with a neural network. They’re a type of machine learning algorithm that’s used for everything from language translation to finance modeling. One of their specialties is image recognition. Several companies – including Google, Microsoft, IBM, and Facebook – have their own algorithms for labeling photos. But image recognition algorithms can make really bizarre mistakes.
Microsoft Azure’s computer vision API [application programming interface] added the above caption and tags. But there are no sheep in the image of above. None. I zoomed all the way in and inspected every speck.
I have become quite interested in Shane’s self descriptions such as this one from the aiweirdness.com website,
I train neural networks, a type of machine learning algorithm, to write unintentional humor as they struggle to imitate human datasets. Well, I intend the humor. The neural networks are just doing their best to understand what’s going on. Currently located on the occupied land of the Arapahoe Nation.
As for the joke being on us, I can’t help remembering the Facebook bots that developed their own language (Facebotlish), and were featured in my June 30, 2017 posting, There’s a certain eerieness to it all, which seems an appropriate response in a year celebrating the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s 1818 book, Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus. I’m closing with a video clip from the 1931 movie,
I last wrote about ‘Woolly Thoughts” some years ago in a July 28, 2010 posting which focused on science knitting. Now, Alex Bellos has written an Oct. 3, 2016 posting for the Guardian about the ‘mathekniticians’ behind ‘Woolly Thoughts’,
In 1996 two British maths teachers active on an internet knitting forum were asked by a US yarn firm to design it an afghan.
“We were sent into a panic! We had no idea what an afghan was!” remembers Pat Ashforth, who with partner Steve Plummer is known in the crafts community for maths-inspired knits.
The couple soon discovered that an afghan was a knitted or crocheted blanket or throw. They produced four designs for the US firm, and it began a journey that has defined the rest of their lives.
Ashforth and Plummer decided that the afghan was the perfect canvas for expressing mathematical ideas – and since then they have devoted much of their time to producing as many as they can.
Together they have knitted and crocheted about 90 mathematical afghans (math-ghans?). Since each afghan takes about 100 hours to complete, this means the total time spent they have spent making them is about 9,000 hours (which adds up to 375 days – more than a year). And they have also made many other mathematical objects in wool.
The couple met while teaching at a school in Luton. By 1999 they were both working at a school in Nelson, Lancashire, where they married in 2005. Originally the afghans were hung in their classrooms. “They were invaluable as a vehicle for talking about maths, says Ashforth. “Large, touchable, unbreakable items were perfect for encouraging group discussion. It is much easier for everyone to be looking at the same thing than for each individual to have their own separate book.”
Not only are the images in the afghans mathematical, but the way they are made also involves mathematical thinking.
“We enjoy the challenge of seeing an idea then working out how it can be made into an afghan in a way that would be easy enough for anyone else to recreate. It is like trying to solve a puzzle and refining it to give the best possible solution.”
This is a great story from Bellos and it’s studded with images of the couple’s work.
Here are a few examples you won’t find embedded in Bellos’ posting,
Vincent: This illusion is based on Vincent Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with Grey Felt Hat. The portrait was painted in 1887 and is in the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. The colours in the illusion were chosen to reflect the impression of the painting but they are very subtle. If I was making it again I would choose slightly more contrasting colours for better definition of the face. Courtesy: Woolly Thoughts
QR Code: You have probably arrived at this page because you scanned the wall-hanging, or a photo of it, elsewhere. I have been thinking about knitting a large-scale QR code for several years. I wanted it to look as little like a QR code as possible, which is rather perverse as the whole purpose of a code is that people can instantly recognise it and scan it with a phone. Some of my ideas were very complicated and I could not be sure that they would work. Eventually I decided to try a simple version first. There may be others later. QR codes differentiate between light and dark so the actual colours don’t really matter. My first attempt, which I pulled undone, had many more colours than the final version. I thought it looked very messy so eventually settled for four dark, and four light, colours, on the principle of the ‘four-colour map theorem’. There is no pattern for this design. Courtesy: Woolly Thoughts
Mixed Mitrefours: All of the shapes are kites and are all exactly the same size. Four-sided shapes that are all the same will always fit together. This design is unusual because the kites are constructed in two different ways. You may see some 3D effects in the design. It seems to look different from each direction. Courtesy: Woolly Thoughts
I had no idea that there’s a whole subculture of scientists devoted to knitting. Not just any knitting, science knitting. Thanks to Andrew Maynard at 2020 Science blog (July 25, 2010 posting), I have discovered Woolly Thoughts a website devoted to knitting, crocheting, and mathematics.
In fact, there’s a plethora of websites, blogs, and a subset on Ravelry (social networking for knitters) devoted to science/math knitters, much of which you can find in Andrew’s posting.
One item that particularly my fancy was a piece of ‘illusion knitting’ designed by Alice Bell, a science communication lecturer at the Imperial College of London. Illusion knitting is where the same piece of knitting reveals of one of two different images depending on the angle of sight. Bell’s creation, the Rosalind scarf, can look like stripes from one angle and like a piece of DNA from another angle.
For anyone not familiar with Franklin (from the San Diego Super Computer Center at the University of Southern California web page),
There is probably no other woman scientist with as much controversy surrounding her life and work as Rosalind Franklin. Franklin was responsible for much of the research and discovery work that led to the understanding of the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid, DNA. The story of DNA is a tale of competition and intrigue, told one way in James Watson’s book The Double Helix, and quite another in Anne Sayre’s study, Rosalind Franklin and DNA. James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins received a Nobel Prize for the double-helix model of DNA in 1962, four years after Franklin’s death at age 37 from ovarian cancer.
Here’s Bell in her Rosalind scarf,
Alice Bell in her Rosalind scarf
This is the angle for the stripes, to see the DNA go to the Feb. 7, 2010 posting on her Slipped Stitch blog or to Andrew’s posting where you can find more goodies like this,
Knitting and crocheting as a means of creating complex geometrical forms has a long and illustrious history. Alan Turing was often seen knitting Möbius strips and other shapes in his lunchtime apparently, according to this 2008 MSNBC [article]. The work of Taimina and others on exploring hyperbolic planes – and their relevance to biology – has been groundbreaking (I know it’s crochet, but Margaret Wertheim’s TED talk on crochet coral and complex math is excellent, [go here]).
Vancouver (Canada) is home to at least two members of another knitting subculture as I found out earlier this year with the publication of a book by two locals, Mandy Moore and Leanne Prain, Yarn Bombing; The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti. Their Yarn Bombing blog features projects from around the world. I took a particular liking to Bee Bombs,
Annie's bee bombs in Amsterdam
I wonder if we could get some science yarn bombs going for the 2012 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting to take place here in Vancouver?