Crochet Coral Reef at the Smithsonian

hyperbolic crochet reef

Margaret Wertheim and her twin sister worked for over three and a half years on a hyperbolic crochet model coral reef. Now, their creation is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Hundreds of people contributed to the Institute for Figuring’s project, and the installation includes thousands of crochet models made from yarn and recycled materials. It tells the story of the coral reefs’ fragility, showing the diversity and effects that global warming and ocean acidification are having on these delicate ecosystems.

In this TED talk from 2009, Wertheim talks about the project, its goals, and its implications:

The exhibit at the Museum of Natural History is aimed at educating people about coral reefs and how human behavior is harming these beautiful, biodiverse habitats.

Hyperbolic Crochet

So what is hyperbolic crochet? It’s a technique that combines crafting and math to create beautiful, complex shapes. Dr. Daina Tamina at Cornell developed hyperbolic crochet to create a complex, mathematical model.

Wertheim talks about hyperbolic crochet and its contribution to mathematics, summing it up with this amazing line: “So here in wool, through a domestic feminine art, is the proof that the most famous postulate in mathematics is wrong.”

Want to try your hand at hyperbolic crochet? Cornell University has a how to that walks you through basic hyperbolic crochet.

Have you done your own hyperbolic crochet project? Share links to photos in the comments! If you crocheted a coral reef, you can also submit photos to the Smithsonian Community Reef Flickr pool!

[Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by Margaret Wertheim]

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