Friday, November 5, 2010

TED | Margaret Wertheim on the beautiful math of coral' is Wisdom of the Body

Geometry should be the first elementary school math class: It is possible to demonstrating geometrical concepts to children through their interpersonal relations experienced during class. Assignments that partner groups of students working on collaborative projects, can aide in building and maintaining students' self-esteem, while imparting the wisdom of crucial skills of critical thinking and conflict resolution.

Solvei Blue (+1) Replied Apr 27 2009:

Why all the resistance to the idea that crochet is a feminine art? I think it's perfectly apropos. After all, the thesis is that the embodiment of abstract concepts can help us engage with big ideas, not in a cerebral but in a hands-on way. In this culture, that approach has been ignored, and its complement, the abstract, theoretical (masculine) approach has been idealized. Think: Mind/Body. Heaven/Earth. Intellect/Emotion.

[In my humble estimation, the resistance stems from a fundamental resistance to the notion of empowering VISUAL and SPATIAL genius on par with the cerebral AUDITORY type, requiring an honest reassessment of global, racial intelligence rankings?]

To respond to folks making the perfectly valid point that oil painting is a form of art that allegedly has no gender, please keep in mind that "no gender" in our culture defaults to male. Sure, oil painting has no gender explicitly associated with it, but historically, at least up until the late 20th century, a woman would have to really struggle to be accepted as a serious painter. Conversely, crochet would never be considered a medium for a "serious" artist, precisely because of its association with domesticity, making clothes, caring for children--femininity!

[Author: Such Knot-Thinkers may, in fact, have been exceptional map-makers and superb psychologists.]

Amplify’d from
Margaret Wertheim on the beautiful math of coral

Discuss this Talk

  • Mar 13 2010: How perfectly and eloquently described, in masculine AND feminine terms, by a both brilliant and beautiful woman, without bias or apology.

    Thank you for this profound illustration of the 'complexity' of life in the simplest of daily craft, of primarily women and children.

    Thank you!

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    Sep 16 2010: I was so astonished by this talk because I definitely find an answer for my calculus terror in my freshman year. now I know why I can not quite understand it is because the persons created it are too stupid. I love the idea that all abstractions can be interpreted into actual form and the form is surprisingly ordinary. My major is architecture, I love the feeling things are going under control again.

  • Apr 28 2010: There is a connection between the evolving diversity of crochet corals that Margaret Wertheim describes in this talk, and the increasingly complex visual structures that Stephen Wolfram presents in his ( Both speakers show how permutations applied to simple patterns can produce astonishing new creations. Both allude to the possibility that this kind of process is responsible for the diversity of life forms. It's interesting that talks on two such very different topics (crochet and computation) can arrive at the same conclusion.

  • Apr 27 2009: Does anyone else think that the true significance of this is not so much that we can now model hyperbolic planes in some tangible medium, but rather that there is some kind of deep link between fractal geometry and the other three branches of classical (i.e. continuous, non-discrete) geometry that she mentions (e.g. Euclidean, Lobachevskian, hyperbolic)? An iterative, discrete algorithm produces a Euclidean plane when the stitch ratio between rows remains constant; the same algorithm produces a hyperbolic plane when the stitch ratio between rows increases; and as I asked below, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that gradually DEcreasing the stitch ratio would produce a sphere. Am I just seeing things that aren't there?

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      Oct 13 2010: You are half way there, to crochet a sphere you increase then decrease stiches. The rasta-colored hacky-sacks you can buy in gift shops are crocheted in this manner.

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    May 27 2009: Certainly onto something there. I wonder what the hyperbolic geometries of corral reefs can teach us about turbulence and aerodynamics.

  • May 7 2009: This talk is incredible, I'm so glad I've seen it! What an amazing example of how to mix the creative arts with the sciences. It should be shown, alongside talks like Sir Ken Robinson's "Do schools kill creativity?", to all those in charge of education policy worldwide.

    Play Tank! what a super idea!

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    Apr 27 2009: As a visual thinker, who hated numerical representations, I can't even imagine how WONDERFUL an interdisciplinary math and science class would have been if it relied on crochet to convey these concepts! This idea needs to be transformed into an educational curriculum and spread across our public school system.

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      May 6 2009: These ideas are used at *private* schools across our nation. Unfortunately, the public school system is a very stubborn and close minded animal.

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    May 6 2009: Very well said. I guess there is a certain need for people to look into the superficial understanding of things than to look deeper. there is a need to look with a kid's eyes to understand fully what the world is in its fundamentality.

  • May 6 2009: Margaret, inspired by your work, our sixth grade students (including a number of key male crocheters), teachers, mothers, aunts and grandmothers of teachers, au pairs, and parents have crocheted hyperbolic corals which will be mounted in a glass display case this weekend. Our sixth graders have been learning about the importance of coral reefs in respect to their biodiversity, economic importance and sheer beauty. With the addition of podcasts and slide shows our exhibit will have an interactive capacity. The convergence of art, science, math,community building and activism sparked by your work has provided a rich opportunity for authentic learning. I only wish I could understand non Euclidean geometry! Thanks so much for the inspiration.

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      May 7 2009: please send us photo and brief blurb about your reef - i'll put it up online

      if you want to know more you can get the book we published on hyperbolic space and crochet - you can get it on our website

      • Jun 10 2009: Here is our website describing the Community Crocheted Coral Reef we created at Scarsdale Middle School.

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    May 3 2009: Congratulations! It's a beautiful, interesting and re-revolutionary way to learn. How should we start?


May 6 2009: "I think knot". That's pretty funny.

  • Jun 16 2010: I'm no math expert, but I am an artist. I'm a visual learner. My life is about observing the space around me, same as a mathematician, but in a much different way. Saying this my opinion may not matter all that much to you. The reason I can't do math is because I can't touch it. I don't know anything about hyperbolic geometry, but because there was something there that I could see and observe I understood it much more than if one were to hand me a book. I guess what I'm saying is that actually making a physical object with ones own hands is a completely differect learning process, but it is a process. Tacktile learning is extremly important to some. If something like this were taught in high school I would have a much better understanding and have much more interest.

    • Sep 14 2010: I completely agree with you! I believe schools need to incorporate hands on and tacktile learning to enhance lessons. Not everyone learns the same way! And how beautiful is it to incorporate art, math, and science all in one example! That is the beauty of our world that we should teach...that all of this can be found in one example and it all goes hand in hand.


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