Feb 1, 2012

Pasta - e basta!

As you keep asking: this is my pasta. Handmade by me.
Photographed by me. Eaten by me.
Let's forget what we just learned (it is the carbohydrates, not the fat that makes us (them) fat.
Wonderfully explained in the infographic of the day on fastcodesign).
Pasta is not bad for you at all!
The unrivaled Maria Popova from www.brainpickings.org just circulated a breathtaking review of 'Pasta by Design' - an extremely ambitious and obviously beautifully illustrated book analyzing with rigor the geometrical shapes of almost 100 different types of pasta.
(and I was proud of being able to identify eight!)
Most importantly it is stated already in the introduction that pasta is made of durum wheat flour and water. Pasta!, um, Basta! The designers would never even attempt to touch any of these egg-infested derivatives or supposedly ecological or healthy experiments with rye or spelt flour (yes, I had to look this one up).
To the trained cook and passionate gourmet it is clear that different shapes of pasta serve different purposes: the intake of sauce, the bite, the haptic ... all depends on the correct shape.
While the book then goes on to classify that amazing variety of noodles by following the science of phylogeny (building a family tree based on morphological similarities), the highlights are the mathematical descriptions of the individual species. Their simulation and graphic representation side by side with food stills of simple beauty.
To some the juxtaposition of mouthwatering food and scary mathematics might be too much to bear but some could get an inkling of what mathematics is doing when employed in natural sciences: far from claiming to accurately describe nature or to even break down nature into something cold and constructed, it illustrates the desire to find words for observations that go beyond "oh nice!", the sensation of mimicking nature. And maybe one or the other non-mathematician gets the flavor of what scientists are talking about when they describe a model or a theory as 'elegant', 'beautiful' - and thereby more probably 'true' than others.

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