Apparently I’m the only one who didn’t know that there have been Ted talks about the work of Daina Taimina and her discovery that crocheting can be used to generate hyperbolic geometry. The above link is to the page where she explains her discovery, the article in the Mathematical Intelligencer with David Henderson, and how the two of them published an article in Cabinet magazine a few years later with Margaret Wertheim, whom I met at a Cabinet event last week. Margaret is the founder of the Institute for Figuring in L.A., whose mission, according to its website, is “to contribute to the public understanding of scientific and mathematical themes through innovative programming that includes exhibitions, lectures, workshops, and participatory, community based projects.”
At the Cabinet event Margaret presented slides from Crochet Coral Reef, the book she co-authored with her twin sister Christine. From the book’s website:
In the fantastical landscapes of the Crochet Coral Reef, mathematics and evolutionary theory are united via feminine handicraft to create works of art at once visually powerful and ecologically pertinent.
This much is clear. There is also an interesting allusion to “this unusual experiment in radical craft practice.” In addition to Margaret’s brief introduction to hyperbolic geometry, Christine has a chapter entitled “Craft-Work and Other Gendered Myths of the Capitalocene” in which it is strongly hinted that the relative lack of interest in coral crochet on the part of scientific and artistic institutions is a reflection of gender bias. Here and elsewhere, the Wertheims’ book draws heavily on critical art theory and science studies.
In another chapter, Margaret asks whether the Crochet Coral Reef is art or science, picking up on a theme that dates back to antiquity and that is explored in connection to mathematics in my Chapter 10. Otherwise I’m afraid the connection to my book is fairly tenuous. But the Crochet Coral Reef book, and the Institute for Figuring, are too interesting not to mention.