This project made possible by funding from The West Oxford Agricultural Society ~ presenter of The Fryeburg Fair

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Hyperbolic Crochet Reef Project - An article provided by the IFF

The Ladies Silurian Atoll (detail).
Photo © The Institute For Figuring (by Alyssa Gorelick) 

One of the acknowledged wonders of the natural world, the Great Barrier Reef stretches along the coast of Queensland, Australia, in riotous profusion of color and form unparalleled on our planet. But global warming and pollutants so threaten this fragile marvel it now faces devastation, along with reefs around the world. In homage to these disappearing treasures, Christine and Margaret Wertheim of the Institute For Figuring instigated a project to crochet a handmade reef, a woolly testimony that also celebrates a strange geometry realized throughout the oceanic realm.

In coral reefs we witness an endless whimsical diversity--loopy kelps, fringed anemones, crenellated corals, curlicued sponges. All these forms are variations of a mathematical structure known as hyperbolic space. Though mathematicians had long believed this space was impossible, nature has been playing with its permutations for hundreds of millions of years. In 1997, Dr Daina Taimina of Cornell University realized how to make models of this geometry using the art of crochet. Building on Dr Taimina’s techniques through elaborations of her original code, the Wertheim sisters have spent the past five years developing an ever-evolving taxonomy of reef-life forms. Just as the diversity of living species results from variations in an underlying DNA code, so too a huge range of hyperbolic crochet ‘species’ may be brought into being through modifications in the underlying crochet code. There is an ever-evolving crochet ‘tree of life.’
The Crochet Reef is quintessentially a communal project and the community of Reef Contributors now spans the globe with participants coming from across the USA, as well as Australia, England, Ireland, Latvia, South Africa and Japan. Taken as a totality, the project has become an unexpected evolutionary experiment that engages thousands of people around the world.

Texts and diagrams © Institute For Figuring

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