VIDEO: The beautiful math of coral

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.

Margaret Wertheim

Director + Founder, The Institute For Figuring
Los Angeles, CA, United States

Margaret Wertheim

Margaret Wertheim is founder and director of the Institute For Figuring in Los Angeles. The IFF is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creative public engagement with science, mathematics and engineering. At TED 2009 Margaret gave a talk about her work at the intersection of science and art.The IFF’s mission is to engage audiences with scientific and mathematical themes by highlighting the beauty inherent in these fields. At its venue in Chinatown, LA, the Institute curates exhibitions, and hosts workshops and lectures about topics ranging from physics and cosmology, to biology and geometry. In addition, the IFF collaborates with museums and galleries around the world to create innovative public science programming.

We have worked with the Hayward Gallery (London), the Science Gallery (Dublin), the New Children’s Museum (San Diego) , USC and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History (Washington DC). The IFF’s “Crochet Coral Reef Project” is now the largest participatory art+science endeavor in the world. By engaging communities in the act of making their own coral reefs, the Crochet Reef project highlights the devastating effects of global warming on marine ecosystems.

Local community-based Reefs have been made in more than 25 cities around the world, including New York, London, Sydney, Riga and Cape Town. More than 3 million people have seen the resulting exhibitions. In 2011, for her work on the Crochet Reef project, Margaret was awarded the Theo Westenberger Award for Women of Excellence, from the Autry National Center. The prize is given to honor a living female artist. The IFF’s work at the forefront of science+art is an outgrowth of Margaret’s career as a science writer.

As a journalist, she has written for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and many others. For 10 years in her native Australia, she wrote monthly science columns for women’s magazines, including Australian Vogue, and throughout her career has been a pioneer in communicating science to women. Trained as a physicist, she is the author of “The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace”, a history of space from Dante to the internet; and “Physics on the Fringe” about the geniuses and mavericks who invent alternative theories of the universe.

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