Science and the Sacred

Science and the Sacred


Crochet, Coral, Mathematics, and Evolution

In this TED Talk, science writer Margaret Wertheim discusses the mathematical patterns of coral reefs and her attempt to recreate them through the art of crochet.  By following a set algorithm, Margaret and her sister were able to recreate the hyperbolic geometry that coral organisms exhibit.  However, as the project grew and individuals began to add their own embellishments to the algorithm, the crochet replicas began to evolve and more closely resemble natural coral.  A diverse taxonomy of creatures soon emerged.

Her findings point to the mathematical order of nature and how small changes to a pattern (like DNA) can produce sizable changes in biodiversity over the course of time.



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posted May 28, 2009 at 9:58 pm


Fractal and hyperbolic geometries map very well to patterns which are observed in the natural world. I have always been fascinated by them, as by the art of Escher. Such ways of seeing as our presented in the video encourage each person to become engaged with the mystery of life in a very direct and creative fashion. While a few of us will want to go down the path of formalism (i.e. theoretical mathematics), many or most of us will enjoy and be in awe of the forms which express these properties. (For those familiar with Herman Hesse’s book “Magister Ludi”, the glass bead game of nature will provide us with an complex and beautiful set of deeply inter-relational evolving forms.) It is an awesome thing to behold and to stand transfixed in beauty’s eye, a seer and creator — both.



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