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When Snails Lose Their Way

Every so often, and I wish it were more often, Vi Hart becomes a snail. Vi is one of the Web's finest math geeks. Her site is where millions (and I mean that literally) of us go to learn about topology, hexaflexagons, infinity, mobius strips, Fibonacci numbers. She narrates. She draws, but there are moments — ecstatic moments — when she chucks the math and goes totally "snail." Her snails, by the way, either sing or are sung to. They are musical gastropods.

This one, for instance, likes to climb. In a snail, that's a good thing — to go up and up. But what happens when you run out of up? What do you do, Vi asks, when there "ain't more 'thing' to climb"? What you do is you sing your little snail heart out.

That song was published two years ago. More recently, the same little snail has had a climbing crisis. Having climbed pretty much all the things it can get to, it finds itself wondering if this incessant going up isn't a fools' game. Maybe things aren't worth climbing, maybe it would be better to stop, "sit here forever" and "waste away, or fade away." Oh dear.

When a snail loses purpose, the universe reels. This new ballad, so much sadder that the last one, is hard to bear if you have, like me, a fondness for snails, though I think when we get to the end of this second video, the snail appears to find solace climbing onto the pegs at the far edge of a violin, sitting and listening to its own song. I dearly hope so.

I've written about Vi Hart before, here and here. And snails too, here and here.

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Robert Krulwich works on radio, podcasts, video, the blogosphere. He has been called "the most inventive network reporter in television" by TV Guide.

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