Great Barrier Reef in danger, says UNESCO


UNESCO has threatened to list the Great Barrier Reef, as a “World Heritage in Danger” unless Australia cleans up its act and works harder to save this ecological treasure. On Friday the Australian government filed a report on what it’s doing, which coral reef scientists have declared inadequate. Tragically, the government’s plan of action, outlined in its Reef 2050 Plan, is silent about global warming. Moreover the Queensland government is pushing ahead with plans to build a vast port to ship coal in the middle of the GBR and Oz is showing little sign of meeting its CO2 target emissions to ensure world temperatures don’t rise by more than 2˚C, a must if reefs are to survive. Shame on my native land!

Here you can see footage of a helicopter flyover above dozens of GBR rub-reefs devastated by massive coral bleaching this year.

Photo by Jason South.


2016 Hottest year on record + NZ Radio

image-20161111-25052-ip7u3qIts official says the World Meteorological Organization: 2016 is the hottest year on record, with global temperatures averaging 1.2˚C warmer than the pre-industrial era. Almost everywhere was hotter this year, but the burn wasn’t evenly distributed: the Russian Arctic was an alarming 6-7 degrees hotter (bad news for polar bears). Ocean temperatures are also at an all-time high, causing vast bleaching events across the Great Barrier Reef. Here’s an article in The Conversation on 2016’s relentless rise of global warming:…

Also from this week, an interview on Radio New Zealand’s Nights program with IFF Director Margaret Wertheim discussing the IFF’s Crochet Coral Reef project and its marriage of science and art as a way of engaging audiences about the ongoing tragedy of climate change.


Crochet Coral Reef: TOXIC SEAS opens at MAD, NYC


Tonight is the opening party for our new exhibition Crochet Coral Reef: TOXIC SEAS by Margaret and Christine Wertheim and the Institute For Figuring, at the Museum of Arts and Design in NYC. The show is a stunning triumph of handicraft, plastic trash and feminism. More news and gorgeous photos coming soon.


IFF wins the AxS Award for art and science

On September 21, 2016, the Institute For Figuring was awarded the annual art and science, AxS Award by the Pasadena Arts Council. Margaret and Christine Wertheim were delighted to accept this honor, which has previously been granted to such luminaries as JPL’s artist-in-residence Dan Goods, land-artist Lita Albequeque, and Lorne Buchman president of Art Center College of Design.

Awards webpage


Coral reefs may not survive global warming

hgh-res-green reefA decade ago when they started the Crochet Coral Reef project, Christine and Margaret Wertheim joked that if the Great Barrier Reef ever died out, the crochet reef would be something to remember it by. New research compiled by the international agency Climate Analytics now warns that indeed most coral reefs won’t survive a 2˚C rise in temperature, and the world is on target to break that limit. If reefs are to make it through, the researchers say, humans need to restrict global warming to no more than 1.5˚C above pre-industrial levels, which, they note, would at least allow “some chance for a fraction of the world’s coral reefs to survive.” 1.5˚C is probably an impossible goal, requiring carbon emissions to peak by the end of this decade then radically decline, with a future “carbon budget” of just 250 billion tonnes of CO2. That’s approximately six years worth of our present emissions. This sobering news comes as the IFF is preparing for our Crochet Coral Reef: Toxic Seas exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design in NY, opening September 15, 2016. The historic photo above was one of the Wertheim’s first handicraft reefs, dating to 2006, just as scientists were beginning to link reef degradation to climate change.


Physics, religion and South Park

Sometimes things go awry. Especially on South Park, the belovedly irreverent cartoon series, of which we at the IFF are fans. How delightful to see that this hilarious Wisecrack video about the representation of religion in South Park features a discussion of IFF director Margaret Wertheim’s book “Pythagoras’ Trousers”, which posits a history of the relationship between physics and religion. Plus you get an animation of Margaret and South Park creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, doing a googly-eyed dance together.


Crochet Coral Reef in e-flux

In an insightful article in e-flux magazine Rebekah Sheldon discusses the Crochet Coral Reef project as an exemplar of the recent interest among feminist and queer studies scholars in moving away from universal theorizations towards acknowledgement of the epistemic power of the particular. Entitled “Queer Universal,” Sheldon’s piece hails the virtues of attending to such “particular forms of life” as “lightning, atoms, jellyfish … extinct aurochs, wooly coral reefs … and transgender frogs.” The IFF is delighted to find ourselves in such company, both on the page and behind it. Sheldon’s article draws also on a recent essay about the Crochet Coral Reef project by trans-studies theorist Jeanne Vaccaro “Feelings and Fractals: Wooly Ecologies of Transgender Matter” published in the journal GLQ: A Journal of Gay and Lesbian Studies.

Queer Universal
e-flux: Journal #75, 05/2016

About the author: Rebekah Sheldon, an assistant professor in the English Department at Indiana University Bloomington, is a scholar of feminist philosophy, queer theory, the new realisms, and contemporary American literature, culture, and popular rhetoric.


Science Show with Robyn Williams

On the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s beloved Science Show with Robyn Williams, IFF director Margaret Wertheim speaks about corals, carbon and the cosmos. Thanks for a lovely interview with reporter Alexandra de Blas.


American Association of Physics Teachers Award

IFF Director Margaret Wertheim has been awarded the 2016 Klopsteg Memorial Lecture Award by the American Association of Physics Teachers. On July 18, 2016, Margaret will deliver her lecture at the AAPT’s annual meeting in Sacramento. This is the first time since 2006 the award has been given to a woman. Previous honorees include Harvard theoretical physicist Lisa Randal (2006), Lee Smolin (former director of the Perimeter Institute and the inventor of loop quantum gravity, an alternative to string theory) and Neil de Grasse Tyson (director of the Hayden Planetarium).

About the Klopsteg Award
Named for Paul E. Klopsteg, a former President and long-time member of AAPT, the Klopsteg Memorial Lecture Award recognizes outstanding communication of the excitement of contemporary physics to the general public.


World Ocean Day


Today is World Ocean Day, and the IFF salutes marine life everywhere. This picture shows corals growing around plastic trash on a pier at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, an elegiac reminder of the stresses these wondrous organisms are facing and the need for us all to confront our run-away use of plastic. This Fall, the IFF’s Crochet Coral Reef project will be exhibited at the Museum of Arts and Design in NY, with a specially curated focus on plastic trash and coral bleaching.