NASA's 'Extreme Planet Makeover'; Crochet Coral Reef at the Smithsonian

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 7, 2011; 2:44 PM

Art and science

And the rest of us just knit scarves . . . Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef, National Museum of Natural History

An impressive exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History ties together art and science with yards and yards of sparkly yarn. The "Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef" is, amazingly, just what it sounds like: an enormous crocheted coral reef created by hundreds of local crafters, a spinoff from the worldwide Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef Project. ("Hyperbolic" refers to a kind of geometry that appears in some natural forms, including corals and sponges.) Sisters Margaret and Christine Wertheim launched the project in 2005 in their Los Angeles living room to promote ecological awareness and highlight the need for conservation. There are miniature beaded-crochet sea anemones, woolen jellyfish and a plastic portion of the reef, created to bring attention to ocean pollution. Sound weird? It's magnificent. The exhibit runs through April 24.

Astronomy

It may not be Mars, but I made it myself "Extreme Planet Makeover," NASA

Last month, NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab and the California Institute of Technology launched a fun interactive Web site called "Extreme Planet Makeover." Visitors can design their own planet, deciding on its age, size and what type of star it orbits. Informational boxes explain what effect those decisions have on the planet's potential habitability. Or they can just go nuts and create an enormous, freezing-cold, poison-gas-shrouded exoplanet. At the end, users can download a picture of their creations. The site is a fine educational tool for students who are trying to understand astronomical concepts and star types.


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