Posted in biology

Coral Sculptures bring awareness to reef bleaching

It’s hard to get passionate or take action on things you can’t see. This is why projects like this or the Crocheted Coral Reef are so crucial to bring awareness to the devastation of our oceans and broader environment.

With the Great Barrier Reef suffering the worst mass bleaching event in history, climate change could kill off the world’s coral reefs for good by the end of the century. When that happens, Courtney Mattison’s coral reef art might be the closest thing to the reefs we have left.


Called Our Changing Seas, Mattison’s series of massive, intricately detailed ceramic sculptures were created by hand to represent coral reefs in the midst of being bleached. Bleaching is what happens to reefs when their sensitive zooxanthellae—a symbiotic algae that gives coral its pigmentation—die, usually due to environmental factors like pollution or temperature. And when the zooxanthellae die, so do the reefs.

To recreate these reefs in ceramic, Mattison pokes thousands of holes into the clay with her fingers to mimic the sponge-like cavities of a coral colony, while sculpting coral’s more tubular polyps with the aid of simple tools like paintbrushes and chopsticks. Each of her sculptures takes between seven and ten months to create in her Denver studio. There, they are sculpted and fired in as many as 100 separate pieces, which combined will make up the finished reefs, weighing 900 to 1,500 pounds each.

Read more…

Posted in design and architecture, education, engineering

Hyperbolic planes: the true story

I have written several times about the Institute for Figuring‘s crocheted coral reef. The coral pieces are based off of the  mathematical idea of 3D hyperbolic space. This concept was easy enough to express through mathematical modeling, but no one had been able to properly demonstrate the actual 3D representation of this idea. Mathmatician Daina Taimina figured out that you could in fact demonstrate a 3D model using crochet; it’s flexible, it’s flat and curvy at the same time, and it follows a mathematical pattern.

Taimina recently wrote to me to tell me that she has now published her own book describing the technique; Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes.

According to the book description: “This richly illustrated book discusses non-Euclidean geometry and the hyperbolic plane in an accessible way. The author provides instructions for how to crochet models of the hyperbolic plane, pseudosphere, and catenoid/helicoids.”

These are very cool to see and make one for your very own. [Wordpress seems to be on the fritz, so I will post pics later].

Thanks Daina!

Posted in biology, communication and networking, education

Crochet coral reef is coming to Dublin

I’ve written previously about the crocheted coral reef created by Margaret Wertheim and her sister Cristine as part of their Institute for Figuring. Well, now it’s hopping the pond and heading to Science Gallery (of which I’ve also often written):

20:02:10 13:00 – 15:00

In preparation for the upcoming exhibition “Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef” we’re delighted to welcome Margaret Wertheim back to Science Gallery this weekend. At the workshop, participants will join Margaret to finalise the process of making an “Irish Reef”, which will be exhibited alongside the international crochet reef collection at Science Gallery from March 2010. To book your place at the workshop please go to

LOVE LAB: THE SCIENCE OF DESIRE continues in Science Gallery until March 12th. Please note that this is a lab in the gallery, aimed at producing real publishable research.

Posted in biology, chemistry, education, medical imaging, museum

Dissected knit frog!

One of many cool knitted specimens of science.

What happens when science nerds get hold of knitting needles and crochet hooks? Marvelous, wonderful things, that’s what! Here is a sampling of discovery magazine’s favorite knitted and crocheted science creations.

This gallery includes Daina Taimina’s geometric forms that inspired the crocheted coral reef that have put the Institute for Figuring on the map (relatively).

knitted dissected frog
A cute little dissected knit frog

   See the whole gallery, including a colored 3D diagram of the brain!

Posted in communication and networking, education, museum, music

SPIE Art Show

I just have to plug a recent project I worked on: The SPIE Art Show and silent auction! SPIE is “an international society advancing an interdisciplinary approach to the science and application of light.” They are best known for their huge international conferences devoted to photonics and other studies of light, but also produce books, journals, classes, and other events.

But who are the people behind SPIE? Who are the staff who devote themselves 40+ hours a week to creating these light-based event? I work there, and I didn’t even know. So, I figured, what better way to learn about my coworkers than through their art, how they express themselves, how they spend the other few hours of wakefulness not bringing light information to the elite masses. I and my hard-working team invited all staff and family members to submit a piece of artwork or craft to the show.

We had a great turnout of artwork, and a wide variety (photos below), from knitted baby caps to milagros to an “installation piece.”

crocheted baby hats pretty necklaces art show 3 

Most of the pieces submitted were sold as part of a fundraiser for the local non-profit Mother Baby Center. The MBC’s goal is to support and provide services to soon-to-be and new parents, especially when they can’t get services elsewhere, from doctor referrals to nursing classes.

How does this event relate to my blog? I think a lot of people’s assumptions are that a) those who are interested in science aren’t also interested in the arts; b) the faces we see in one setting – school, work, church – are the entirety of that individual, and c) that art is not a legitimate or substandard use of time, or at least not appreciated by anyone but the artist. I hope this event proved all these assumptions wrong, and hopefully by writing about this event it will inspire other organizations to do the same.

For the record, and possibly as another incentive to organizations, we ended up raising a substantial amount of money, enough that the organization is already talking of doing it again next year.