As Father’s Day approaches, I found myself remembering all the time I spent in my own father’s office, playing with the various bits of office material as he tried to get work done. My father was an architect, and one place to park me was in front of the typewriter which was in the reception area and not in the immediate space where he worked, bent over a drafting table. I don’t know how many pages of his stationary I burned through writing various bits of nonsense, but maybe that love of typing, the sense of committing words to a page in a way that seemed more important than writing them by hand, was one of the things that later drove me to write. (In the same way that some painters say they paint because they love the smell of the paint itself.)
Sometimes, though, I would wander into his work space and play with the various tree stamps on pieces of tracing paper, or, perhaps best of all, I would get to handle the various hand tools which seemed to hold almost mystical power. Things like slide rules or scales. Or there was the entire collection of outlines of furniture in various scales that were in sheets of cut out plastic. Among those objects was a plastic curve maker:
Forgive the Amazon link: it was the best example of the exact thing I used to play with. In fact, I can remember my father letting me have it, and I took it home and drew my own version of a sports car, in profile, carefully considering the appropriate placement of the curves to be included. Later, when I started experimenting with drawing programs, I re-discovered the joy of curves, which I learned had a more interesting name, [Bezier curves], named after the French engineer who used them to model, believe, curves on cars at Renault.
And now I find myself re-immersed in the world of math, not only because I find it fascinating and a possible research path for myself but also because I have a daughter who has a talent for math and I want to encourage it. I can only do that if I know enough to be useful to her. And so I start collecting links like this [Reddit thread] on cure simulations. Check out these [animated Bezier curves], for example, or this [Bezier curve simulation].
Why should you care about Bezier curves?
[Bezier curves]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bézier_curve
[Reddit thread]: http://www.reddit.com/r/InternetIsBeautiful/comments/27bsdl/curve_simulation/
[animated bezier curves]: http://www.jasondavies.com/animated-bezier/
[Bezier curve simulation]: http://tholman.com/bezier-curve-simulation/