Quilts are inherently mathy with their geometric shapes, and blocks that are fractions in visual form. Even measuring patches requires math. After a few sketches though, I decided that traditional quilt blocks, or even tessellations and more modern treatments were too obvious. Finally, the phrase “You do the math” appealed to my ironic side that Terry says I seem to gravitate towards. It begged for some sort of comparison or statistics. For it to be meaningful to me, I figured I should look at women’s issues, or something close to home. It was in the writings of Jared Diamond that I ultimately found my theme.
In his book Collapse, Diamond refers to Thomas Malthus, an English economist and demographer, who is famous for the dilemma explained in his 1798 Essay on Population,
“The power of population is infinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man. Population unchecked, increases in geometrical ratio. Subsistence increases only in arithmetical ratio. A slight acquaintance with numbers will show the immensity of the first power in comparison of the second.”
I searched the internet for numbers to support Malthus' dilemma so that I might create a fabric chart to express it. My feeble scratch at the surface of this issue was hardly conclusive, but it provided lots of off-topic food for thought (pun intended). Irregardless of whether Malthus' Dilemma is proving itself out or not, the comparison of geometrical and arithmetical growth is in itself mathematical and thusly fits the challenge.
Using numbers from the UN's statistics website and the help of my Excel savvy husband, I drafted a chart showing the historic (since 1950) and projected population growth of the less developed countries in the world (that dramatic uphill curve growing towards an estimated leveling off near 8 billion people by 2050) and the growth of the more developed countries as shown in the thinner section between 1 and 1.5 billion people. I pieced this chart with feed sack fabrics for the obvious reason that it was appropriate to the discussion of feeding the world. Over these geometric curves are embroidered lines showing the arithmetical growth of major grain yields from 1950 to 2005. I left the ends hanging loose because there is no way to accurately forecast future grain production and possible breakthroughs. The quilt is bordered with small beads representing rice and corn.
Long story short, this chart quilt (and all charts are mathematical in basis) of a mathematical hypothesis is my take on the theme "Mathematics."