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Krulwich Wonders: Getting Drunk On Stars

Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - 12:16 PM

NPR
A frame from 'Doodling in Math Class: Stars' A frame from "Doodling in Math Class: Stars" (Vi Hart/Youtube)

If she were an octopus, or an alien from the planet Zantar, I would expect this, but no, Vi Hart is a person, like me, with arms, legs, heart, fingers and toes, and with a mind — ah, that's where I have to draw the line: Vi Hart's mind is not like mine, so not like mine, all I can do is gape in wonder.

She is a math geek. She makes videos for kids who she suspects are like her but don't know it yet. For Vi, patterns, shapes and numbers are like wine; they make her giddy, speed up her already speedy conversational style, and lead her into drunken orgies of drawing and dizzy illustration.

Case in point: This video, which is about stars. Not stars-in-the-sky stars, but stars you draw on paper. Five pointed ones, Jewish ones, asterisk style ones, that's how she starts, but as she gets into it, the narrative gets faster, the drawings busier, out pop 7 pointed stars, then 8 pointed stars, then 11 pointed ones (nope, she can't do those), then stars of superimposed polygons drawn without lifting her pencil, then what she calls "square" stars; she's going faster and faster, pulling out ruler-shaped objects I recognize from math classes I spaced out in, and two and a half minutes in, Vi is travelling on an astral plane so far from where I live, she's shooting stars out of her pencil and all I can do is watch her go.

I don't know what she's saying much of the time, but I find it beautiful nonetheless...

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Comments [6]

Dear Robert Krulwich, whom I love-- I'm with Tess. Your I-don't-get-what-she's-saying-but-am-tripping-on-the-visuals lingo is posturing, isn't it? Why are you characterizing her, and by implication all people who love Math, as rare oddities of human nature, then trying to convince us that you're not one of us? As an elementary teacher who is in love with the methodical search for patterns and relationships which Mathematics is, I am totally feeling the rapture of Vi Hart's exploration of stars. Thank you so much for sharing this video! Instead of making her seem like some kind of freak, you might have noted her skills as a media artist. I love how she framed this investigation as doodling during a decontextualized lesson on factors; I can believe that's how it happened, too. Did you actually interview her? Her "speedy conversational style," like the faster-and-faster bursting of stars from out her pencil tip as she narrates her thought process, are part of her video production geek artistry--compressing our audio-visual experience toward her thought-speed (like NPR technicians use audio smoothing to seamlessly remove the pauses and uh, er, ums, but unfortunately not the affected "kind of"s and "sort of"s, from recorded interviews.)
I love how you make me feel while I'm listening to Radio Lab out amongst the lettuce and beets.

Jul. 20 2012 07:32 PM
JD

Clearly, Asperger Syndrome. But definitely brilliant.

May. 01 2012 01:02 PM
Don Slish

Wow! I love this girl. Thanks for bringing her to us!

Apr. 26 2012 04:12 PM
tess

What the hell Krulwich? I want to thank you for talking about Vi Hart; she deserves it. I'm glad she's getting more exposure. But how you chose to end this is totally pathetic. "I don't know what she's saying much of the time..."???? Really? First, Jad complains the entire episode of "numbers" about how much math sucks. Now, you can't even understand a vi hart video? You're just mystified by the pretty shapes and how fast she talks? For "science correspondents" and for people who host a SCIENCE radio show that I love and respect, for people who just recently received the goddamn Macarthur genius grant, you still emulate this STUPID American mentality/absurd fear of being terrified of the how supposedly complex math is. As someone who has gotten countless Americans to LOVE science, why the hell are you still so afraid of math? It's a bummer. I wish you weren't like this.

Apr. 25 2012 02:57 AM
Christopher Berumen

um... Yeah. I am completely stupid. NO... Seriously! I AM COMPLETELY STUPID BY THIS STANDARD!!!

Apr. 20 2012 04:41 AM
Janel

I love Vi Hart! She is one my favorite people on YouTube. Thanks for sharing this.

Apr. 20 2012 12:51 AM

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