MIT Artists Create 21st-Century Mathematical Origami

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Father-son duo Erik and Martin Demaine invent complicated paper sculptures that bridge the gap between math and art

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My blog, Brain Pickings, is all about the cross-pollination of ideas across disciplinary boundaries. I have a particular soft spot for the interplay of art and mathematics—from Anatolii Fomenko's vintage mathematical impressions to Vy Hart's playful mathematics to Benoît Mandelbrot's legendary fractals. So I love the work of MIT father-and-son duo Erik and Martin Demaine. In this wonderful presentation from MoMA's superb 2008 Design and the Elastic Mind exhibition, Erik reveals the extraordinary computational origami he has developed with his father, MIT's first artist in residence.

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Demaine, an endearing tried-and-true MIT-er complete with the ponytail-and-glasses combo and Comic Sans slides, embodies some of our highest ideals: From early childhood entrepreneurship to curiosity across the social strata to collaborative creation to the inspired interweaving of art and science.


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"One of our growing realizations over the years is that mathematics itself is an art form, and I think that's what attracted both of us to this area in the first place. [I]t has the same kind of creativity, the same kinds of aesthetics, that you get in art: You want a clean problem to solve, and you want an elegant solution to that problem. Both art and mathematics are about having the right ideas [and] executing those ideas in some convincing way, so in that sense they're indistinguishable." — Erik Demaine

For more of Erik Demaine's cross-disciplinary creative genius, I highly recommend the tandem of Geometric Folding Algorithms: Linkages, Origami, Polyhedra and Games, Puzzles, and Computation.


This post also appears on Brain Pickings.
Images (top to bottom):Ryan Somma/flickr, Erik Dermaine

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Maria Popova is the editor of Brain Pickings. She writes for Wired UK and GOOD, and is an MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow.

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