The Amazing Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef

1) I know what crochet is, but what does “hyperbolic” mean? I’ll tell you. I don’t know. It has something to do with geometry and space. For the purposes of this article, that’s all I need to know.

2) Why crochet a coral reef? This is an easy question. The Institute For Figuring is an educational organization dedicated to enhancing the public understanding of figures and figuring techniques. From the physics of snowflakes and the hyperbolic geometry of sea slugs, to the mathematics of paper folding and graphical models of the human mind, the Institute takes as its purview a complex ecology of figuring. These scientists and mathematicians recognized that the forms of the organisms that make up a coral reef are hyperbolic in structure. They also recognize the ecological hazards that are killing the reefs. A small scale project, to crochet a reef of wool to pay homage and draw attention to the plight of the corals and other reef creatures, has blossomed into a worldwide movement.

“Crochet Coral and Anemone Garden” with sea slug by Marianne Midelburg.
Photos by Alyssa Gorelick.

3) The crocheted reef, at the beginning of March, covers more than 3000 square feet. It is now a traveling exhibit, and everywhere it goes on display, local crocheters are invited to attend workshops where they can make and contribute their own hyperbolic creations. The reef will visit New York City in April.

4) I’m seriously thinking of going.

Visit the site of the Institute for Figuring for more information on hyperbolic figures and their applications, and on the Coral Reef project.

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