Crocheting A Coral Reef
Reported February 2011
WASHIGTON, DC (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Our planet's coral reefs are endangered. It's estimated that pollution, global warming, and overfishing have damaged 25 percent of coral reefs beyond recovery. Now, a unique project is helping bring awareness to delicate coral reefs one ball of yarn at a time.
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Nancy Mccarthy is a crotcheter from way back.
"I started crocheting probably around 1976," Mccarthy said.
But Nancy hasn't been busy crocheting sweaters and socks, she's one of 800 volunteers that helped crochet what is called the hyperbolic crochet coral reef, made almost entirely of yarn. Thanks to the institute for figuring, it’s on display at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, bringing science and art together.
"Some of the creations for the reef are quite fanciful," Nancy Knowlton, Ph.D., a coral reef biologist at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, said.
To make the corals, crocheters used a technique called hyperbolic crochet, created by a mathematician that creates a saddle-shaped design.
"The whole idea of hyperbolic just means extra spacey, it's all the ruffles and curly-cues that you find in nature," Dr. Knowlton explained.
Hyperbolic crochet is a simple process of increasing the number of stitches in a row randomly.
“You definitely don't have to know math to crochet hyperbolically you just need to know how to crochet, and it's actually pretty simple," Dr. Knowlton said.
The crochet reef contains 4000 individual pieces of coral, representing different parts of a reef. Crocheted plastic bags show a polluted reef, a dead reef of white and pale yarns show bleaching from global warming, donated from around the world.
"Now I have pieces in the Smithsonian, all of the corals were archived, photographed and archived by the names of the makers," Mccarthy said.
Science and yarn make an undersea world come to life. The exhibit is on display at the Smithsonian until April 24, 2011. Two sisters, Margaret and Christine Wertheim of the institute for figuring, began the project in 2005 in their Los Angeles living room and for the first four years, the reef took over their house, gradually expanding to become the dominant life-form in their home, now on display in the Smithsonian.
The American Geophysical Union, American Mathematical Society, American Statistical Association, Biophysical Society, Mathematical Association of America, and Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
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