I’ve already written a post on origami, featuring Dr. Robert Lang, but he was profiled recently in The Washington Post, and Rachel Saslow’s article, When Origami Meets Rocket Science, was so informative, I thought I’d do a follow up. At 49 he’s the quintessential origami master. He quit his career as a laser physicist and semiconductor laser and fiber-optic researcher while working for NASA in their Jet Propulsion Laboratory. As if these professions weren’t “heady” enough and lucrative once going into private technology in Silicon Valley, he decided to give it all up for paper folding. He is doing well, traveling giving lectures, and being the go-to origami guy. His love of physics and mathematical relationships exist in origami when patterns are discovered through paper folding. He used origami concepts to collaborate on a project with The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to develop a telescope lens for space. The “Eyeglass” lens was designed with correlating panels as the premise, similar to origami. Other science/origami related projects include: folding car airbags and medical stints. As Lang describes, a fun project can have a practical purpose.
The art historical aspect of the article was very intriguing describing the origins to be believed as early as the 1700′s, with cranes and boats in Japan and then was catapulted in to popularity by Akira Yoshizawa in the 20th century. There was a craze that took hold in the 1990′s. Lang published the book., Origami Design Secrets: Mathematical Methods for an Ancient Art, in 2003. This has become the origami bible of sorts. His artistic origami designs are just phenomenal.
The article also profiled, Tom Hull, an associate professor of mathematics at Western New England College, who uses origami in his calculus, number theory, geometry and algebra instruction. His book is Project Origami, published in 2006. It demonstrates projects teachers can us in their math classes.
Erik Demaine, another origami enthusiast, who was 15 at the time when he was starting a PhD in computer science at the University of Waterloo (!) when he discovered Lang’s work, has paired up with Lang to devise computer software called Treemaker that transforms origami sketches into a crease pattern as a template to follow.
In addition, Dumaine is working on a project that links origami to possibly understanding and maybe even finding cures for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Dumaine also has paper sculptures in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Lang gives lectures at the Waters Art Museum in Baltimore. Both not too far a trek for me to check out.
Coincidentally, in the same paper is a blip about visiting several new art exhibits. One being, Veritas Obscura at Flashpoint Gallery. This is showcasing the photographic work of Marc Roman, who creates three dimensional pieces that show the 100-year timeline of the history of the electron. Now, I never did well in chemistry, even though my father (and father-in-law, I’ve discovered) were both chemistry majors, it didn’t seep into the genes. I have every intention however of following in the footsteps of my father and long line of Jackson family members in being pre-med when I showed up on college campus. That quickly changed. Anyway, maybe this visual would have helped me get through chemistry. Funny, I was so scared to take it from the hardest teacher in my high school that I took it as a summer course at Tulane University. What was I thinking? I needed a tutor. Although, I appreciate the sciences, I’m a visual person not a math/ science one. I like math when I do not have to use it.