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Institute for Figuring

A Field Guide to Hyperbolic Space

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A Field Guide to Hyperbolic Space: An Exploration of the Intersection of Higher Geometry and Feminine Handicraft

By Margaret Wertheim

This elegant red linen-bound book provides an introduction to the subject of hyperbolic space and a how-to guide for making hyperbolic crochet models. The volume is a wonderful introduction to the Institute for Figuring (IFF) and an excellent aid to the IFF's Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef project.

For two thousand years mathematicians knew about only two kinds of geometry – the plane and the sphere. But in the early nineteenth century they became aware of another space in which lines cavorted in aberrant formations. Offending reason and common sense, this new space came to be known as the hyperbolic plane. Although the properties of this space were known for 200 years, it was only in 1997 that mathematician Daina Taimina worked out how to make physical models of it. The method she used was crochet. Here, IFF director Margaret Wertheim presents a brief history of hyperbolic space in mathematics and nature, and offers a "field guide" to its crocheted manifestations. An invaluable resource for those interested in the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef.

Founded in 2003, the Institute for Figuring (IFF) has developed exhibits and programs for museums, galleries, colleges, and community groups around the world. The mission of this nonprofit organization is to contribute to the public understanding of scientific and mathematical themes through innovative programming that includes exhibitions, lectures, workshops, and participatory, community based projects. At the core of the IFF’s work is the concept of material play. They believe that ideas usually presented in abstract terms can often be embodied in physical activities that engage audiences via kindergarten-like practices. Through activities such as cutting and folding paper, they affirm that the hands and eyes can serve as guides to developing the human mind. By inviting their audience to literally play with ideas, the IFF offers a new, hands-on approach to public science education that is at once intellectually rigorous, pedagogically rich, and aesthetically aware.

The IFF’s Crochet Coral Reef is now one of the largest science + art projects in the world.

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