Wow. I just checked out a youtube video (thanks, Cora!) of a TED talk by artist/science writer Margaret Wertheim that absolutely blew my mind (I know it's 16 minutes long, but you will not regret listening to her):
What she's working on is such a beautiful illustration of the power of interdisciplinary thinking: her work involves elements of math, marine biology, feminine handicraft, environmental activism, and community-based art.
And, returning to the idea of tactility: I just want to touch this work! Her giant crocheted coral reef structures are beautiful. It seems like the scale (in relation to your body) is an important aspect of this work-- it's almost frustrating for me to engage with this work through images on a screen.
Near the end of her talk, she touches on an angle of play that I hadn't yet considered: (Beth, if you haven't seen this yet, I hope you will--I think you'll find this part really compelling) she explains that through "plastic forms of play, people can be engaged with abstract, high-powered theoretical ideas."