Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Elephant No. 233: Connect-the-Dots

My first thought was that this would be a very easy thing to produce. Then I realized that it would have to be more or less a continuous-line drawing for it to work. This makes it a little more complicated, but still not all that difficult.

Connect-the-dots puzzles—also known as join-the-dots and dot-to-dot puzzles, consist of a series of numbered dots. When a line is drawn from number to number in sequence, a object appears.

Most connect-the-dots puzzles are simple line art, and they are usually produced for children. Lately, however, a more complicated form of connect-the-dots puzzle has appeared, sometimes featuring well over a hundred numbers.

In addition to being a game, connecting the dots is the first tool used in a popular cognitive development program created by Israeli clinical psychologist Reuven Feurstein. The phrase "connect the dots" has also found its way into everyday parlance, implying a person's ability—or inability—to associate ideas or see the bigger picture.

For today's elephant, I decided that I didn't want it to have any solid features such as eyes or tail. As a child, I felt that those kind of connect-the-dots puzzles were only for "babies", and were a form of cheating on the part of the originator. Having never produced one of these before, it was quite possible that I would feel quite differently by the time I was through today.

I also decided was that it could have as many numbers as I wanted. Another thing I never liked about connect-the-dots when I was young was when the dots were so far apart that the lines were straight and pointy. I used to deliberately curve the lines when I was little, if I thought I could guess what the final design might be. Sometimes this made for some very strange completed drawings.

I started by making a relatively simple sketch.

Once I had the drawing, I figured out where it might be easiest to start, and how to work my way around the drawing. It helped that I'd done continuous-line drawings before, but it's not hard once you get the hang of it.

I began by making dots along the entire outline. I hadn't quite reckoned with the number of dots I would need to avoid jagged lines, but it was quite a lot—413, to be exact. The thing is that you need dots spaced closely together if you want the illusion of a relatively smooth line.

When I'd finished making dots, it was time to number them. In some parts of the drawing, the dots were so close together that I had to draw little lines indicating the number for a dot embedded deeply in a particularly dense cluster. I also lost track a couple of times, and had to add correcting fluid to mask my mistakes. I'm actually surprised I didn't make more mistakes in this welter of dots.

I expected it to be equally difficult to connect the dots, but it was actually easy, and even fun. Like a little kid, I was honestly delighted to see the drawing materialize when I joined the individual dots.

The final result is relatively close to my original drawing, if a bit less elegant and smooth. The more dots you have, the more detailed the drawing will be, which makes it suitable for older kids and even adults.

In the end, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed connecting the dots. It took me about an hour—mostly the time it took to add the tiny numbers—and I'm quite happy with the final result. It was such silly fun that I may even consider making these for some of my friends. But maybe not with 413 dots to connect.

Elephant Lore of the Day
One of the most serious problems facing elephants is fragmentation of their habitat. Roads, plantations, farms and settlements bisect longstanding elephant migration routes, making it difficult—if not impossible—for elephants to find mates, as well as adequate food, minerals and water.

A promising international initiative, however, aims to solve the problem by creating elephant corridors. The Wildlife Trust of India, for example, has already identified 88 potential elephant corridors across the country, prioritized in order of conservation importance and feasibility. Only two of these have been established so far, but there is a strong commitment to the corridors, with support from international partners such as the World Land Trust.

The ultimate aim is to create a pan-Asian network of forest corridors, enabling Asian elephants to move safely between protected areas. The hope is that this will reduce human-elephant conflict and protect important elephant habitat, while benefitting other wildlife, such as tigers and monkeys, in the process.

Interestingly, this sometimes means relocating villagers rather than elephants. Villagers who have already suffered the consequences of conflict with elephants or tigers are usually willing to move. In other corridors, initiatives such as the Indian Elephant Corridors project provides funding and expertise to help people create alternate livelihoods to the slash-and-burn agriculture which has led to the rapid disappearance of forests, along with a concomitant rise in human-elephant conflict.

To learn more about the Indian Elephant Corridors project, click here.

Asian elephant in established elephant corridor in India.
Source: http://www.worldlandtrust.org/sites/files/elephant-in-corridor.jpg

To Support Elephant Welfare
Elephant sanctuaries (this Wikipedia list allows you to click through to information
on a number of sanctuaries around the world)

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