Friday, June 17, 2011

Crochet Reef

by Kelly

I've said before that combining science and crafting is a sure way to get my interest. So when I saw this post on CraftGossip, I had to take a look.

The post is about a crocheted coral reef. Begun in 2005 in a Los Angeles living room, it quickly took on a life of its own. Satellite reefs also sprang up in cities all over the world, helping fund reef conservation efforts by drawing people in to special museum events. The reefs don't seem to have permanent locations, but instead roam about on a perpetual world tour, kind of like the Rolling Stones.

Check out the Crochet Coral Reef site here for lots of pretty pictures and a ton of information.

                               How to make your own corals 

There aren't really patterns for the crochet corals - just a few off-the-cuff rules. The website says, "The basic insight is to understand that these forms result from the simple process of increasing the number of stitches in every row. The more often you increase stitches, the faster the model will grow and the more crenellated the finished form will become."

There is a PDF on how to crochet corals here, or check out this link to Lion Brand Yarn. You have to be registered with the Lion Brand Site to view it. Or, if you're like me and prefer to learn from actually seeing something done, check out one of the many crochet corals videos on YouTube.

                               Warning : Science Ahead

So where does the science come into all this? Well, the reef  'pattern' is based on a technique called 'hyperbolic crochet', invented by a mathematician in 1997. Dr. Daina Taimina. was trying to develop a better teaching model for hyperbolic space. (Hyperbolic space is negatively curved - a place where parallel lines either spring madly away from each other or intersect. If you just said, "Huh?", then imagine some poor student trying to do geometry with rules like that, and you see why they needed a model.) For 125 years, scientists haven't been able to create a good model. Undaunted, she picked up her crochet hook and yarn, and history was made.

 Finding out that a mathematician with 'Doctor' before her name crochets is a little like finding out that Richard Feynman played the bongos, or that Einstein had a troublesome ex-wife. It's startling because scientists don't seem like your average Joe, but neither are they celebrities, with gossip columns devoted to their hobbies. The only press they ever get is when they publish in some obscure scientific journal - or do something impossible, like splitting the atom or making really, really difficult chicken wings.

But all that aside, I love the fact that a woman with a crochet hook solved a problem that has been baffling her fellow mathematicians for more than a hundred years. And, hey, her technique makes one funky scarf, too!

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