« Fidget Widgets: Twiddling your thumbs for fun and profit | Main | The Evolution of Playgrounds »

Playing with Ideas (By Crocheting a Coral Reef)

Note the crochet. Image credit: Allison Maslow.

Margaret Wertheim and her sister started a project to crochet a coral reef. You might think to yourself that this sounds somewhat interesting but possibly just quaint and maybe even frivolous. Au contraire, mon frère. You’ll need to watch the TED Talk linked below to grasp just how cool this is. It turns out that crocheting coral reef forms is a real-world example of geometric hyperbolic spaces that stymied mathematicians for ages. And that’s only one reason among many as to why this is a TED-worthy topic.

Wertheim and her sister went on to found the Institute for Figuring. The whole idea is to engage abstract concepts through embodiment — literally playing with ideas in physical form. They think of their organization as a “play tank” (what a great notion). Embodiment is a fancy concept connected to another fancy concept, the philosophical idea of phenomenology. To greatly over simplify, both of these words speak to thinking and experiencing reality as an integrated experience through the body itself — that there is no separation of mind and body. Play is usually engaged bodily through physical artifacts and technologies (whether low or high tech). Thus, play is actively perceiving, experience, and thinking in the world. Who knew yarn could be so heady?

Margaret Wertheim: The beautiful math of coral [TED Talk]:

Margaret Wertheim leads a project to re-create the creatures of the coral reefs using a crochet technique invented by a mathematician — celebrating the amazements of the reef, and deep-diving into the hyperbolic geometry underlying coral creation.

By masterminding a project to model a coral reef armed only with crochet hooks, Margaret Wertheim hopes to bring some of the most complicated mathematical models embodied in our universe into the minds (and hands) of the masses.

Previously on Note the Smile (and kinda sorta related): When shopping for a piece of technological gadgetry is also playing with it.


(Thanks to Scot Sroka)

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend