Periodic Exercises in Style
Check out this database of periodic tables. It’s like discovering a library written in another language.
But in this language, the words don’t merely read left to right or right to left. They fold in and out of each other. The lines are shapes and are as critical to understanding the language as the words themselves.
There must be thousands of novel representations of the same topic: the periodic table. There is a Cubical-Stair representation, an Octogonal Prismatic representation, and even a version by Marco Piazzalunga: a 12-year-old.
These two stick out to me because they anticipate a mixed reality experience. They’re experiments in 4D. Because the subject matter doesn’t change, the experiments can get that much more… hyperbolic. It’s like Raymond Queneau’s Exercises in Style.
One of Queneau’s most influential works is Exercises in Style, which tells the simple story of a man’s seeing the same stranger twice in one day. It tells that short story in 99 different ways, demonstrating the tremendous variety of styles in which storytelling can take place.
Exercises in Style is not as aesthetically pleasing as the name suggests. (It’s no 69 Love Songs either.)
Queneau was part of a group of writers called Oulipo. They were exploring the boundaries of literature to see if there was anything beyond the realm of telling stories. They seemed kind of jealous about the advances in math (echoing an earlier jealousy that philosophers felt toward scientists), so their experiments almost seem like Math Lit.
I wonder if there will be an Oulipo for virtual reality?
If so, it seems like a marvelous idea to constrain the subject matter. The periodic table seems like a great topic because it’s a tangle of content and physical properties. What else out there is shaped like a periodic table?
I keep imagining knowledge graphs as knots. Perhaps a knot knowledge syntax could be more expressive than nodes and edges.