Thursday, July 29, 2010

- The Hyperbolic Coral Reef

You may, perhaps, be wondering just what the Hyperbolic Coral Reef is?

So glad you asked!

It's a project started in Australia by two crocheting sisters seeking to call attention to the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef.  

Interestingly, there's a mathematical angle to all this.  I will likely not get this entirely right, but basically for some time mathematicians denied there was a hyperbolic function until Mr Vincenzo Riccati and Johann Heinrich Lambert came up with it in 1760.  This despite the fact that many coral grow hyperbolically, so there were examples right under their nose (or toes).

And you can crochet a hyperbolic function by simply creating a chain and doubling it for every stitch--example below:
It starts to look like brain coral, doesn't it?  And the pattern can be modified to create other coral (and mathematical) functions.

It was a powerful visual and experience to remind me you can start with something very simple--a single chain stitch.  Then do something very simple--double it.  And if you continue to add these simple building blocks, you can create something of amazing complexity--perhaps even beauty.  Just think about the single cell dividing and dividing and what remarkable organism it can come up with! 

I remember reading that Balzac (king of the door stopper novels) would start each one with a single page.  Then he'd keep adding bits and expanding bits, and thousands of pages later, you'd get Lost Illusions.

So the longest journey does indeed begin with the first step.  And whatever complex project you may have in mind that feels overwhelming, just make a single slip knot.  Add another.  You'll be surprised how it can grow!

For those who want to learn more, I've grabbed a relevant paragraph from The Smithsonian Community Reef project:

The Smithsonian Community Reef is a satellite of the worldwide Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef Project created by Margaret and Christine Wertheim of the Institute For Figuring in Los Angeles.  It was made possible through the support of the Quiksilver Foundation, the Embassy of Australia, and the Coral Reef Alliance.  Find out more about Margaret and Christine Wertheim and the Institute For Figuring in Los Angeles here, and their Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef Project here.  Find out more about the upcoming exhibition of the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef and Smithsonian Community Reef at the National Museum of Natural History on the Museum's Smithsonian Community Reef Temporary Exhibitions Page.  To be included on this e-mail circulation list (or removed from it) please contact

And for those of you may be wondering how this relates to hyperbole?  I figure it's whatever it is, just double it!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

More is not always better...

Here is my story (you've already read the moral of the tale in the headline!).

One of my towels got strange bleached out marks on it & looked weird (orange marks on a brown towel).  I couldn't figure out how they got there & assumed I had stupidly put one of my brown towels in with a white wash & bleach had marked it.

So I folded it carefully so the orange didn't show & kept using it, vowing NEVER to forget and put my colored towels in a white wash or foolishly think of bleaching them in any way.

The mystery deepens: more bits of orange kept appearing on my towel (not on the hand towels, not on my husband's towel, just on my bath towel).  It finally dawned on me that I could no longer fold my towel to hide the marks.  They were on both sides in all quadrants--and I know I hadn't bleached them.

I was clueless & did a search and read one tiny comment that explained everything: some hair products can bleach or discolor fabric/towels.

OMG, that explained everything.  Now I don't actually do anything significantly weird to my hair, but I do condition it occasionally (my husband does not, thus no impact on his towel).  I use different hotel conditioners picked up on travels.

I took some of the conditioners & glopped them on the towel & though it was not transformative, I could see some faint orange emerging on the sites.  Mystery solved.  And I knew I shouldn't try to replace that towel brand--it would only happen again.  Note this had never happened to me on any of my other towels, all colored.  I'm sure with these they used "natural" dyes or something!

Midterm moral:  Don't let your assumptions (e.g. bleach) blind you from the information.  Sherlock Holmes would have been able to deduce the answer from the clues without the internet.  I could have figured it out too.

So I decide I get to buy new towels.  I love the big turkish bath sheets & after obsessing about colors, cotton thread counts, etc. I get lovely thick towels.

Only to realize that extra big and extra thick means quite heavy to lift (over your head, say, to towel your hair).  And thick towels don't wrap around you as easily to dry off the nooks and crannies.

Note to self: next time, large size, less thick.  More in all directions is not always better.

More is not always better...

It reminded me of creating book covers & wanting each element--the title, art, typeface, headline, back cover copy--to shout "Buy Me!"

And then realizing that if they all were shouting, no one would get heard!

So the challenge was to determine what was the most powerful call to attention, then work on effectively leading readers to the next step, and the next, until they are hooked and immersed in the conversation.