The Innerness of the Outerness

    “Now, this third handkerchief”, Mein Herr proceeded, “has also four edges, which you can trace continuously round and round: all you need do is to join its four edges to the four edges of the opening. The Purse is then complete, and its outer surface—”
    “I see!” Lady Muriel eagerly interrupted. “Its outer surface will be continuous with its inner surface! But why do you call it Fortunatus’s Purse, Mein Herr?”
    The dear old man beamed upon her with a jolly smile. “Don’t you see, my child—I should say Miladi? Whatever is inside that Purse, is outside it; and whatever is outside it, is inside it. So you have all the wealth of the world in that leetle Purse!”

Lewis Carroll,
Sylvie and Bruno Concluded

So the question is… when is a sock not a sock, or indeed when is a tsock not a tsock?

Why, when its inside is contiguous with its outside; when, therefore, it contains both your foot and everything in the universe other than your foot - including, of course, your other foot.

And then - riddle me this, Batman - what happens if you make a PAIR of them?

Yeah… if that don’t give you no ringin’ in the ears between Being and Nothingness, as Leo Rosten might say - at least I hope it’ll be good for a laugh.

“This” being Tsock #3 for this year’s Tsock Flock Club: “Quantum Paratsox.”

Which is really PERFECTLY NORMAL. I mean, doesn’t every sock begin with a Möbius cast-on?


OK, OK, so maybe not so much. But really, I don’t see how I was supposed to resist.

I love to see two truths at once. Every good comparison offers this benefit to the spirit.

That’s Joseph Joubert, and he neglects to point out that the real benefit comes from the two truths being mutually exclusive. So I am kindly doing it for him with my weird little salute to paradox.

This is the sock that ties itself into a knot - so that you don’t have to.

Quantum Paratsox

It really does start with a Möbius cast-on, and you work the Möbius strip until it’s a couple of inches wide and then execute a fold that converts it into a fearfully and wonderfully made figure-8 thingy that goes around your foot and ankle kind of like an Ace bandage, if you see what I mean, with a twisty bit up top…

Quantum Paratsox

… that has an opening hidden under it, because of the whole inside being continuous with the outside thing. (Yeah, I’m sure there are some shoes that won’t fit over it. But there are others that will.)

And then… then you fill in the heel. And then you pick up the edges and start working down the foot, and/or up the ankle, and… well… that of course is when Schrödinger’s Cat makes his appearance. Or doesn’t make his appearance. Or both does and doesn’t make his appearance. Because this is the reductio ad absurdum where quantum physics meets slapstick comedy.

    One can even set up quite ridiculous cases. A cat is penned up in a steel chamber, along with the following device (which must be secured against direct interference by the cat): in a Geiger counter, there is a tiny bit of radioactive substance, so small that perhaps in the course of the hour, one of the atoms decays, but also, with equal probability, perhaps none; if it happens, the counter tube discharges, and through a relay releases a hammer that shatters a small flask of hydrocyanic acid. If one has left this entire system to itself for an hour, one would say that the cat still lives if meanwhile no atom has decayed. The psi-function of the entire system would express this by having in it the living and dead cat (pardon the expression) mixed or smeared out in equal parts.

Erwin Schrödinger,
article in “Naturwissenschaften,” 1935


Now, I don’t actually claim to know from quantum physics. But I know from paradox, and I know from surreal. According to how you interpret this…

Cat Alive The cat is alive.
Cat Dead The cat is dead.
Cat Alive and Dead The cat is simultaneously both alive and dead.

You may call that “thought experiment”; you may call it “quantum superposition”; you may call it “environmentally induced quantum decoherence”; me, I call it farce, and it gives me the giggles.

Alternatively, you can take a more Heisenbergian view of the problem, according to which there is simply no way to know whether the cat is alive or dead, because thanks to the “diabolical mechanism” the intrusion of the observer is enough to affect the outcome and invalidate the experiment.

So is the cat alive, or isn’t it? In fact… is the cat even present, or isn’t it?

Question We Just Don’t Know…
Question … no matter how we look at it.

But that doesn’t stop me from looking at it. And the lens through which I see it - or don’t see it, as the case may be - is a form of Illusion knitting. Only… done in the round, like Festive Intarsia. Which is why I call it Festive Illusion.

That’s what those contrasting stripey boxes are, here and there on the sock - representations of the steel chamber in the original thought experiment. Depending on how you look at it, each of them may or may not contain a cat that may or may not be alive or dead or both; or indeed it may or may not simply contain a question mark as a representation of the Uncertainty Principle. How many such boxes there are, and which of them contains (or doesn’t contain) which symbol, is up to you.

Look straight at the box, and you can’t see through it; it might or might not contain a cat.

Quantum Paratsox

Look at it from the right angle… and you might actually SEE the cat, and even be able to tell whether it is alive or dead or both.

Quantum Paratsox

Then again, even if you can see inside the box, you may not be able to see the answer to the question.

Quantum Paratsox

The medium is the message. That’s Illusion knitting for you: now you see it, now you don’t.

In case that isn’t twisted enough for you… there’s a cuff in angled ribbing that appears to twist in one direction…

Quantum Paratsox

… overlaid with another mind-bendy strip (you can make it a true Möbius or add further twists, as you please) which appears to twist in the opposite direction, although in fact… it doesn’t.

Quantum Paratsox

So… when is a tsock not a tsock?

Quantum Paratsox

Um… actually… I don’t know. Do you?


Tour de Fleece, Day 2

More spinning on the Abby silk. And I washed the Beauteous CVM, for which I’m starting to have big plans. And the day ain’t over yet. Pictures in next post. Promise.

PSA: The Karma Goose Flies for Abby Franquemont

So… Abby has been having a rough few months, lately. And a bunch of us may (or may not, as Heisenberg might see it) be plotting something extraordinarily cool that we want to do for her. In a secretive sort of LALALALALALAMOVEALONGNOTHINGTOSEEHERE sort of way, so as not to spoil the surprise, but it might have something to do with handspun, and it might be very compatible with the Tour de Fleece, and there might be a couple of weeks left for you to get in on it. If you’re on Ravelry you can learn more about this (or you could, if anything were happening which of course it isn’t LALALALALALALA) by reading as much as you can bear of this thread, or by sending a PM to westfaire, who would be the ringleader of this operation if there were any operation to ringlead. Or if you’re not on Ravelry but are still interested in participating, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

That is… I would, if there were anything to get back to you about. ;-)

16 Responses to “The Innerness of the Outerness”

  1. Leah Douglas Says:

    Mobius strips and illusion knitting…two techniques I have yet to try, and now both are heading my way! Our poor mailman…he will surely swear out a restraining order on me before this gem arrives…

  2. onafixedincome Says:


    Obviously spinning 18plies and sundry other fun-ness has turned your brain. Will you ever learn not to just watch the wheel going round and round and round and round? :)

    Schroedinger’s Sock, here, is one wild beastie! Mind you, I’d be a little scared to take them off–what if the cyanide gas had gone off in there (something my feet have been accused of after a long day, LOL)?


  3. chalyn Says:


    i can’t wait!

  4. LindaS Says:

    omg. I just finished reading a book that had a cat named Schrodinger in it……prophetic, eh? I need to do a little research into the whole “is it or isn’t it” thing that you’ve got going on here. My brain is bulging.

    This looks just plain amazing - and now I see the reason for the very long needle. :-) :-)

    I just hope it gets here FAST!!

  5. karen Says:

    I wish I had the money to have joined this year - this is a wonderful sock (even better than the last one) - but I will get it when it gets released to the general public

  6. Lisa Says:

    My head might have just exploded. Or it didn’t. I’M not sure, and I’m attached to it. Or not.

  7. lilibean Says:

    “…where quantum physics meets slapstick comedy.”

    Could this sock be any better? I’ve already read this blog entry three times, and it makes me laugh every time. Thank you for creating a sock that’s making me so ridiculously happy.

  8. melanie Says:

    My take on the Schroedinger issue always has been : the cat isn’t in the box because she had more sense than to get in. But that’s just conjecture, and even thinking about the conjecture changes the results, like a photon aimed at an object changes it, especially if the object is in motion…..

    Small announcement to all who plan to knit this sock: it’s as gorgeous and boggling in-person as it is on-screen, and don’t even think about whether you have shoes it’ll fit into because thinking about shoes might change the way you approach the sock….

  9. Patricia Says:

    If by some small miracle I am able to actually knit these socks, there is no way I would ever think of hiding them in shoes. I might just make a small Knitting altar in my home and place them there.
    I continue to be amazed with the Tsarina’s designs, and even more amazed that she explains them so well I am actually being able to knit them.


  10. Marcy Says:

    What? No Klein Bottle???

  11. Melissa Says:

    I’m pretty sure my brain just exploded from reading this blog post.

  12. Karen in McLean Says:

    Come to my arms, my beamish tsock!
    O frabjous day! Callooh! Callock!”
    She chortled in her joy.

  13. Erica Says:

    That has to be the geekiest sock I’ve ever seen. I love it!

  14. Marina Stern Says:

    I got behind. Who whoulda thunk that you’d start blogging daily again?

    A few years back, I was at a party with several science fiction writers. The conversation ran amok, as conversations will, bouncing among various quantum theories, and variations of Murphy’s Law. Combining them, we realized that:

    A cat always lands on its feet, but

    Bread always lands buttered side down, so

    If you tie a piece of buttered bread on the back of a cat, and drop it, IT CANNOT FALL!

    Our “thought experiment” invented an anti-gravity device, and, we thought, a possible spaceship drive. You may be surprised to learn that very little alcohol was involved in this experiment.

  15. ZaftigWendy Says:

    That tsock or not-tsock is more proof that your brain, she is not like other brainz.

  16. StudentT Says:

    This intrigues me. Even better yet, the BF is a physicist and would get a huge kick out of the Schrodinger’s cat part. I don’t know how you come up with stuff like this :)

    When will us general public be able to get a kit of it?

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