I’m contemplating the power of “X.” I’ve just returned from a week at TEDxSummit in Doha, Qatar – an event that brought together over 600 TEDx organizers from 90 countries hosted by TED (Ideas Worth Spreading) and the Doha Film Institute.  [Event photos here.]
The theme of the week was “The Power of X.” For many of us “x” was why we were there. It signified the act of holding an independently licensed TED event in each of our communities around the world. The “x” or exponent is shown as a superscript to the right of the base.

However, throughout our week together, the meaning shifted to mean something else. Something greater. It began to signify the power of “x” to multiply great ideas. Coming together in Doha with organizers from around the world I realized (we all realized) that our local events multiplied the spreading of ideas to make change in our communities. This theme of multiplication was perfectly illustrated by a stunning video, opening TEDxSummit.

The kaleidoscope,  operating on the principle of multiple reflection, was the perfect metaphor for the event. The word “kaleidoscope” is derived from the Ancient Greek καλός (kalos), “beautiful, beauty”, εἶδος (eidos), “that which is seen: form, shape” and σκοπέω (skopeō), “to look to, to examine”, hence a kaleidoscope is an instrument to “observe beautiful forms.” 

Meeting organizers from around the world, my goals were continuously reflected back at me, my inspiration multiplied. I saw how we are all connected, like the mirrors in the kaleidoscope, working to bring people together around ideas, working to build communities where none might have existed before. I came to the event with a unique perspective on my own event, TEDxSJU, and I left, seeing how each independent event was intricately connected.

We Are Pi created this human arabesque with no computer graphics, just ingenuity and a little math.  Their “How To” video is equally inspiring.

This video got me thinking about how Islamic patterns employ geometry and mathematics to construct the foundation for designs. Six-point geometry is especially pervasive (and beautiful):

The radius of a circle can be swung through its circumference in exactly six arcs to inscribe a hexagon – six circles around one

  • It is the sum of the first three numbers, 1, 2, and 3
  • It is the multiplication of 2 and 3
  • The hexagon can tile perfectly with identical copies of itself to fill a plane
  • The Pythagorean 3-4-5 triangle has an area and a semi-perimeter of six
  • Six-point geometry is abundant in nature – flowers, quartz, snowflakes, honeycombs
  • Six around one is also a biblical theme – the cosmos were created in six days, with the seventh day for rest
  • Intriguingly, the sub-grid, part of underlying structure of the design, is always invisible, transparent. It is something that is there but not there

Understanding something (at this basic level) about Islamic patterns makes this video all the more amazing to me.