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light knot All photos by Moon Jang

RGB Knot Installation - code

I’ve spent this Spring participating in Moon Jang and David Gay’s Mathematics Outreach Design Lab course, a class focused on fostering collaboration between Design and Mathematics students for the creation of “outreach products” that explain interesting math concepts to a broader audience.

For this first project, I worked with four different mathematicians to design and construct an installation explaining the math behind knots.

light knot

Using a Neopixel light strip from Adafruit, we encoded the three-dimensional path of the knot into red, green and blue color space. Localizing our knot inside a cube, we derived the color of each LED from the point’s location in space.

We chose this to be our mathematical idea because we were most interested in the fact that knots deform space into a minimally-complex shape – you cannot turn a figure 8 knot into a trefoil for example, and you can’t turn a trefoil into the unknot (circle).

light knot

While the mathematicians worked on the parameterization functions of the knot, I programmed the lights using Arduino and developed an interactive application in Processing that allowed users to control the lights over serial communication. Check out the code here!

Another photo by Moon Jang, as well as a screenshot of the application:

light knot

light knot