Is there a crocheter in your life? Someone who has made you more hats, doily, scarves and blankets than you could use in a lifetime? If you know that person (or you are that person — no judgment, we like hats!), boy do we have a great suggestion: Turn those talents toward helping the Crochet Coral Reef.
The exotically shaped creatures that began to sprout silently all over the cozy lecture hall were soon spilling onto empty chairs and into women’s laps and shopping bags. When fully grown, these curiously animate forms will find a home as part of a mammoth version of the Great Barrier Reef. But at the moment they were emerging at a remarkable pace from the rapidly flicking crochet hooks wielded by members of the audience.
This environmental version of the AIDS quilt is meant to draw attention to how rising temperatures and pollution are destroying the reef, the world’s largest natural wonder, said Margaret Wertheim, an organizer of the project, who was in Manhattan last weekend to lecture, offer crocheting workshops and gather recruits. The reef is scheduled to arrive in New York City next month.
We’re always tickled to see the innovative approaches people come up with for calling attention to environmental degradation, especially in this case, given the dangers facing coral reefs today.
And for the math geeks out there, this project offers a little something extra.
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.”
And now you can, too — all it requires is picking up a crochet hook (preferably one that is eco).
Story by Alisa Opar. This article originally appeared in Plenty in March 2008. The story was added to MNN.com.
Copyright Environ Press 2008