Crosshatching in the Crosshairs

Brian Hayes in American Scientist:

Mondrian We live on a planet wrapped in a fishnet of meridians and parallels. To get along in this world, we learn to navigate the streets and avenues of a city, the aisles of a supermarket, the columns and rows of a spreadsheet. At the airport we glance at the tabular listing of departing flights (columns and rows again), then solve minor problems in coordinate geometry to find gate B18 and seat 23C. Grids and networks are everywhere. Even our entertainments present themselves as arrays of squares: the chessboard, the Scrabble board, crossword puzzles, Sudoku.

In The Grid Book, Hannah B. Higgins looks into the cultural significance of all these crosshatch patterns and other geometric devices for organizing space and time. Higgins’s field is art history, and so she gives generous attention to manifestations of the grid in the arts: Piet Mondrian makes an appearance, the cubists get their due, and there’s a whole chapter on the evolution of perspective drawing. But Higgins also explores more widely, touching on city planning, writing and printing, weaving, mapmaking, musical notation, accounting, and of course the Web.

More here.