So if you’re in the knitting business, at some point in the process of turning wool into a sweater you will need to take a large, washer-like disk of steel and punch little notches into its outer rim, for some use in the process which I do not know. You will gradually collect a zillion little bits of steel, each measuring about two by three millimeters, unless you are so stupid as to throw them away. Then you will take these bits of steel and stick them onto the business side of a big roll of masking tape, creating a steel mosaic. But the yellow masking tape will show itself between the gaps, so you will rub black shoe polish over the whole thing to turn the tape black but leave the steel shiny. You’ll do this until your mosaic reaches, oh I don’t know, 34 meters long. Then you’ll take a tiny paint brush and some paint (of course) and commence to recreate the Bayeux Tapestry, an 11th or 12th-century tapestry depicting the battle of Hastings in 1066. It should take 20 years or so, if you also decide to invent yourself the last quarter of the tapestry which has gone missing over the intervening centuries.
That’s exactly what you’ll do, anyway, if you are Michael Linton, a sweater-maker in Geraldine, NZ. You can see his account of the process here.
But there’s more. If you purchase his twin CD-ROMs — and how could you not? — you will have the entire recreated tapestry at your disposal, and you can click on absolutely any item on the tapestry (person, Latin phrase, plant, dog, castle, etc) and get a full story of who the person was, what the Latin means, what the plant is, where the dog came from, and so on.
The discs also include some of Linton’s homemade puzzles. There are “alphametic” puzzles he’s made (example here) and several others of his own invention. Linton also sells a “magic cube” he invented, which he describes as follows:
This 8 x 8 x 8 magic cube consists of an array of numbers from 1 to 512, with no number repeated or missing. These numbers have been arranged so that every line, file, column and diagonal, including the four corner to corner diagonals, adds to 2052.
In addition, if you take the eight corners of any cube within the cube, you will get 2052.
What makes it even more magical, is that if you take any face and swap it parallel to itself (top to bottom, side to side, back to front, or vice versa), the cube remains magic. This can be repeated as many times as you wish.
The cube is represented virtually on one of the CD-Roms, which makes it easy to do the “face swapping.”
There are more puzzles and inventions to be found on his website (linked above), but you get the idea. In conversation with Mr. Linton, he explained that he didn’t do all that well in school, since they kept insisting that he pay attention to things that didn’t interest him. He’s involved his kids in his projects, and they’ve grown into fascinating, diverse, intelligent beings as well. One now invents games for Nintendo.
What struck me most about meeting him was the thought that in any little town you drive through, the most interesting and fertile mind may not (probably won’t?) be found in the local university or research lab. It is likely to be found in the sweater shop on the corner, the one hosting the world’s largest jersey: