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New ways of folding origami

"Origami may someday even save a life." — Robert Lang

Synopsis

A pioneer of the newest kind of origami, Robert Lang uses maths and engineering principles to fold mind-blowingly intricate designs that are beautiful and, sometimes, very useful. Talk recorded 2 February 2008.

About the Speaker

Robert Lang merges mathematics with aesthetics to fold elegant modern origami. His scientific approach helps him make folds once thought impossible -- and has secured his place as one of the first great Western masters of the art. Origami, as Robert Lang describes it, is simple: "You take a creature, you combine it with a square, and you get an origami figure." But Lang's own description belies the technicality of his art; indeed, his creations inspire awe by sheer force of their intricacy. His repertoire includes a snake with one thousand scales, a two-foot-tall allosaurus skeleton, and a perfect replica of a Black Forest cuckoo clock. Each work is the result of software (which Lang himself pioneered) that manipulates thousands of mathematical calculations in the production of a "folding map" of a single creature.

The marriage of mathematics and origami harkens back to Lang's own childhood.  As a first-grader, Lang proved far too clever for elementary mathematics and quickly became bored, prompting his teacher to give him a book on origami. His acuity for mathematics would lead him to become a physicist at the California Institute of Technology, and the owner of nearly fifty patents on lasers and optoelectronics. Now a professional origami master, Lang practices his craft as both artist and engineer, one day folding the smallest of insects and the next the largest of space-bound telescope lenses.

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