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Mathematics is Focus of Two Grants CAMPUS CURRENT College News

An Unlikely Yarn about the World’s Biggest Art+Science Project NELSON SERIES SPEAKER MARGARET WERTHEIM

Raising awareness about global warming and the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef has been a seven-year mission for science writer Margaret Wertheim. During the Dr. Bruce J. Nelson ’74 Distinguished Speaker Series this fall, Wertheim shared the story of her and her sister’s crusade.

Reefs Te escalating magnitude and frequen- cy of the “bleaching” of the Great Bar- rier Reef is the impetus of the Australia native’s project. Toxic runoff, excessive tour- ism, ocean acidification and increasing water temperatures all contribute to the devastation of the coral reefs and ecosystems to which they belong. Wertheim and her sister, Christine, crocheted their first heads

Rubbish Te lovely yarn coral reef has a “satanic twin,” a “toxic reef” made from castoff plastic material. It serves as a reminder of the Pacific garbage patch, a floating landfill northeast of Hawaii, twice the size of Texas and 30 feet deep. Te sisters col- lected their plastic waste for four years and have displayed it in an effort to provide motivation for changes in behavior and practices.

Reason Margaret Wertheim

Crocheting is the “logically necessary medi- um” to use to replicate corals because yarn is flex- ible enough to create a hyperbolic surface. Hyperbolic

of coral in 2005. A year later, with contributions from (mostly) women, a 6,000-square-foot gallery was filled with a colorful, curl- ing creation. Te project’s growth mimicked the way that a natu- ral reef proliferates, spawning satellite reefs in other communities. In 2010, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History made an exhibit of the yarn reef, comprising the contributions of 900 par- ticipants. Six thousand people have crocheted components of yarn coral reefs, and three million viewers have seen the artwork at mu- seum exhibitions in Los Angeles, Sydney, Croatia and London.

Construction Milestone

With the placement of the final BubbleDeck panels on the roof this fall, HMC reached a key milestone in the construction of the teaching and learning building. The structure is now as tall and large, with respect to volume, as it will get. “The shoring is starting to come, so you can get a good sense of the spaces,” said David Dower, assistant vice president of planning and con- struction. “And the folks that ‘got on the ball’ did indeed have their signatures cast in concrete.” The outdoor classroom on the third floor has begun to take shape with the installation of the trellis system. Interior work has begun on the admission office space and the basement-level classrooms. An aerial view (taken in August) provides perspective.

geometry has negative curvature—the geometric equivalent of a negative number. Wertheim uses a simple stitching algorithm to teach participants how to produce a hyperbolic crochet coral head. As the crocheters play with the algorithms, they invent new shapes and patterns that contribute to the “ever-evolving taxonomy of crochet coral species.” Te project is now approaching the level of complexity of the real reefs.

—Adapted from an article by Tamara Savage ’15, October 2012 Muddraker

FALL/WINTER 2012 Har vey Mudd College


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