Wednesday, March 5, 2008

"Holding theorems in their hands": The Hyberbolic Crochet Coral Reef Project

"For Ms. Wertheim...the project embodies the 'beauty and creativity that comes out of scientific thinking,' what she refers to as 'conceptual enchantment.' As it turns out, the gorgeously crenellated, warped and undulating corals, anemones, kelps, sponges, nudibranchs, flatworms and slugs that live in the reef have what are known as hyperbolic geometric structures: shapes that mathematicians, until recently, thought did not exist outside of the human imagination ... It wasn’t until 1997 that Daina Taimina, a mathematics researcher at Cornell who had learned to crochet as a child in Latvia, realized that by continually adding stitches in a precise repeating pattern she could create three-dimensional models of hyperbolic geometry. For the first time mathematicians could, as Ms. Wertheim said, 'hold the theorems in their hands'."

-- NY Times: Want to Save a Coral Reef? Bring Along Your Crochet Needles (Um, that would be crochet hooks and knitting needles.)

"Every person who takes up this craft creates new species of crochet organisms and we have come to see the project as a collective experiment in textile-based evolution. Just as all living creatures result from variations in an underlying DNA code, so the species in these handi-crafted reefs arise from deviations in a single simple algorithm. Slight variations in the kind of yarn, changes in the rate of increasing stitches, even shifts in crochet tension make significant differences to the morphology of the finished form ... Ways of constructing once perceived as 'merely' women’s craft, and dismissed from the cannon of scientific practice, now emerge as revelatory forms of a more complex, embodied way of thinking about the world both mathematically and physically."

-- The Crochet Coral Reef At The Chicago Cultural Center

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