Saturday, March 03, 2007

More on Origami

My friend, Pop, sent me a link to a fascinating article on origami. It's "The Origami Lab" by Susan Orlean. The article is about a physicist, Robert J. Lang, who decided to devote full time to origami. He has a website here and you will be amazed at his wonderful creations!

The article talks about Lang and how he got started in origami, and it also gives some background about origami. Here's a paragraph about Lang:
Lang grew up outside Atlanta. He was given an origami book when he was six by a teacher who had run out of ways to keep him entertained during math class. Lang took to origami immediately. He was fascinated by the infinite possibilities within the finite-seeming—the characters and the creatures that could almost magically come to life from an ordinary square of paper. He worked his way through the designs in one book and then another and another. He had many interests—stamps, coins, plants, bugs, mud—and he was, as his father, Jim Lang, says, “a super-duper math whiz,” hooked on Martin Gardner’s recreational math column in Scientific American. But paper folding engaged him most. He started designing his own origami patterns when he was in his early teens. He diagrammed them in detail on letterhead from the Chrysler Corporation Airtemp Division, where his father was in sales.

And here's a bit about origami itself:

The Japanese have been folding paper recreationally for at least four hundred years. For the first two hundred of those years, designs were limited to a few basic shapes: boxes, boats, hats, cranes. Folding a thousand cranes—all of white paper, which was the only kind then used—was thought to bring good luck. The principle was simple. The sheet of paper was the essence: no matter what shape it became, there was never more paper and never less; it remained the same sheet. Japanese folding probably didn’t spread directly to the West. There is no definitive history, although David Lister, a retired solicitor in Grimsby, England, and the author of more than a hundred essays on the subject, suggests that paper folding developed independently in countries all over the world. In the nineteenth century, schoolchildren in Germany, France, and England made paper horses with riders, and boxes to trap flies, and it is reported that paper folding flourished in Spanish villages and prisons.

In 1837, a German educator, Friedrich Fröbel, introduced the radical idea of early-childhood education—kindergarten. The curriculum included three kinds of paper folding—“The Folds of Truth,” “The Folds of Life,” and “The Folds of Beauty”—to teach children principles of math and art. The kindergarten movement was embraced around the world, including in Japan, where Fröbel’s simple folds merged with traditional origami. Japanese magicians of the time also began doing paper tricks as part of their conjuring. By the eighteen-sixties, Japan’s isolationism was ending, and in the following decades those magicians travelled to Europe and the United States to perform. Suddenly, the kindergarten exercise appeared mysterious and wonderful. A square of ordinary paper creased and crinkled could come to life as a flapping gull; a sheet of parchment could take shape as a lion or a swallowtail. Professional magicians in Europe and the United States loved origami, and a number of them wrote books about it. In 1922, Harry Houdini published “Houdini’s Paper Magic: The Whole Art of Performing with Paper, Including Paper Tearing, Paper Folding and Paper Puzzles.” (He regularly did a trick known as “the troublewit,” turning a piece of paper into an endless number of different shapes without any cuts.) In 1928, the stage magicians William Murray and Francis Rigney published “Fun with Paperfolding,” with chapters on square folding, diagonal folding, and a complete paper-folding stage routine titled “How Charlie Bought His Boat.”

The entire article is a fascinating read, and a visit to Robert J. Lang's will top off your fascination just right. Have a look. Maybe you will have found a new hobby!



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