Public Pedagogies Institute

On Thursday November 23, 2017, IFF Director Margaret Wertheim delivered the keynote address at the annual conference of the Public Pedagogies Institute in Melbourne, Australia.

Titled Turning Learning Upside Down: Teaching and Learning Beyond the Classroom, this 2-day event looked at a wide variety of ways in which pedagogy is being enacted, and can be enacted, outside of formal academic spheres.


To The Best Of Our Knowledge – NPR

Margaret Wertheim is interviewed here on the NPR program To The Best Of Our Knowledge with Anne Strainchamps. They discuss the geometry of spacetime and the prospect of crocheting a universe. Titled Is the Universe A Number? this edition of the program also includes Israeli mathematician Shlomo Maital on the Khaballa, and Nobel Prize winner Frank Wilczek on physicists search for beauty in the laws of nature.




Wertheim awarded “Scientia Medal”

IFF Director Margaret Wertheim has been awarded the 2017 Scientia Medal for science communication by the University of New South Wales, Australia. Given annually, along with the Bragg Prize for science writing, the medal has previously been won by Stephen & Lucy Hawking, and Scottish geologist/broadcaster Professor Ian Stewart.

Scientia Medal 

Tuesday 7 November 2017
6pm to 8pm
Australian Museum

Cnr College St and William St, Sydney

UNSW Dean of Science Professor Emma Johnston and Chief Executive of UNSW Press Kathy Bail invite you to the launch of The Best Australian Science Writing 2017 and announcement of the 2017 Bragg UNSW Press Prize for Science Writing.

Internationally noted science writer, artist and curator Margaret Wertheim will launch the anthology.

In recognition of her enormous contribution to science communication, Wertheim will be presented with the UNSW Scientia Medal for Science Communication at this special event.

UNSW President & Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs will also announce the winners of the Bragg student prizes for science writing.

Refreshments and canapés will be served. We look forward to welcoming you.

Registration is essential.

Register here


Hyperbolic Geometry in VR


Math goddess Vi Hart & mathematician Henry Segerman’s virtual reality animation reveals the gorgeous crystalline formations inherent in hyperbolic 3-space, the negative curvature equivalent of 3D Euclidean space. Great to see it this week on the New York Times “Daily 360” VR platform. This beautiful visualization gives us a psychedelic update on the ground-breaking animation in the legendary 1970’s math film “Not Knot” which describes relationships between knots and hyperbolic space. This mind-blowing film is available here on You Tube. And here’s the original version of Hart & Segerman’s film from 2016 – simpler graphics but more detailed geometry.


Art + Science – LA Happenings

It’s been a busy time in Los Angeles for those interested in the nexus of art & science. In June, the second iteration of KNOWLEDGES the acclaimed art & astronomy happening curated by Christina Ondrus took place at the Mount Wilson Observatory, famed location of Edwin Hubble’s discovery that our universe is expanding. Later in the month, ICA-LA hosted an evening of LA-based VR artistry while the Fathomers – an offshoot of the innovative Grand Arts experiment in Kansas City – threw an art & science lunch to celebrate their collaboration with mycelium-artist-engineer Phil Ross, an old IFF friend. This weekend the Pasadena Arts Council and Art Center College of Design – site of two IFF exhibitions – are hosting Free Radicals: Evolving Perspectives on the Convergence of Art and Science, an interdisciplinary conference of theorists, practitioners, writers and performers working at the art/science interface. IFF director Margaret Wertheim gave a talk about concepts of space at KNOWLEDGES and will be presenting the Free Radicals keynote.


UCSC Exhibition – Final Week


“Coral Forest” by Margaret + Christine Wertheim and the Institute For Figuring. Image courtesy of the Institute of the Arts and Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz.

This is the final week of the IFF’s exhibition Crochet Coral Reef: CO2CA CO2LA Ocean at the University of California Santa Cruz Sesnon Gallery, hosted by the UCSC Institute of the Arts and Sciences.

Donna Haraway, who played a key role in bringing the show to campus, writes:

“Photographs did not prepare me for being in the Reef in the flesh. The simultaneously playful, wild, serious, and formal all came through viscerally as well as cerebrally. The Midden room was very powerful. I felt like I was moving through a veil to another reality as I walked through the kelp forest crafted from dense, heavy, entangled tape. Then, that other, darker reality in the night-time ocean enveloped me. The trash accumulation was palpable, heavy, looming, menacing, but also suspended, even as toxic elements were everywhere in each composition. Diving, walking, swimming—while a little dizzy and breathless because of the power of suggestion in the space … You have brought something magical to Santa Cruz just when we need it most.”


“The Midden” – four years worth of Margaret + Christine’s domestic plastic trash. Image courtesy of the Institute of the Arts and Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz.


Deutsches Museum


The IFF has news from the Deutsches Museum in Munich, the world’s largest science and technology museum, famed for its enormous collection of machines. One of our crochet Satellite Reefs was featured in their ground-breaking show Welcome to the Anthropocene, hailed as “the first major exhibition” on this subject. A post-exhibit survey has revealed that the Reef was “the second-most liked” object in the show, and in a welcome break from tradition drew a wide female audience into a venerable institution whose audience is overwhelmingly male. The Reef – picture above – is an outcropping of the Fohr Satellite Reef specially constructed for the Deutsches Museum show.


Outsider Science in the Washington Post

In the Washington Post, IFF director Margaret Wertheim has an essay on outsider physics, inspired by Ren Weschler’s enchanting new book Waves Passing in the Night about Walter Murch, the legendary Hollywood film-and-sound editor who has his own cosmological theory. Here she draws parallels with outsider art.

Detail of the Periodic Table, as described by James Carter's theory of "Circlon Synchronicity."

Wertheim coined the term “outsider science” in her 2011 book Physics on the Fringe, a sociological study of the mavericks who invent alternative theories of the universe in their backyards and basements. In 2012, she curated an exhibition about this work at the IFF’s former exhibition-space in Los Angeles, celebrating the theories of her book’s hero James Carter, the Hieronymus Bosch of the field. At the IFF we salute Jim and his magical vision of the world.

Detail of the Periodic Table, as described by James Carter's theory of "Circlon Synchronicity."

Details of the Periodic Table, as described by James Carter’s theory of “Circlon Synchronicity.”


Great Barrier Reef has lost half its cover

“Climate change is not a future threat. On the Great Barrier Reef, it’s been happening for 18 years.” – Terry Hughes, coral biologist, James Cook University.


This devastating New York Timearticle chronicles the latest bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef, with 2016 the worst ever recorded and 2017 looking to be yet another epic scorcher.

“We didn’t expect to see this level of destruction to the Great Barrier Reef for another 30 years,” said Terry P. Hughes, director of a government-funded center for coral reef studies at James Cook University in Australia and the lead author of a paper  published today as the cover article of the journal Nature. “In the north, I saw hundreds of reefs — literally two-thirds of the reefs were dying and are now dead.”

The IFF’s Crochet Coral Reefs, some of which are currently on display at the UC Santa Cruz Sesnon Gallery, are an elegiac artistic response to this crisis. When Margaret and Christine Wertheim started the project they joked that if the GBR ever died out, their crochet reef would be something to remember it by. A decade later the unthinkable has become a pending possibility.

Citizens of Santa Cruz are currently crocheting a reef as the latest addition to the IFF’s worldwide wooly archipelago. For information see the UCSC Institute of the Arts and Sciences. UCSC-IAS


Aeon Article


Cold and calculating. A Dorid nudibranch (Tritoniella belli) in Antarctica. Photo by Norbert Wu/Minden/National Geographic

Sea slugs, sound waves, falcons, and electrons all enact amazingly complex pieces of mathematics. In the fibers of their being and their ongoing activities they are mathematicians-by-practice. Here in Aeon magazine, IFF director Margaret Wertheim explores the idea that math may be seen as a kind of performance akin to playing music.