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Folding thoughts since 1873

Archive for February, 2007

Deadly Kite Action

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

But it’s all in good fun! A traditional kite festival in Pakistan has resulted in 11 dead and 100 injured.  This massacre follows the reinstatement of the festival after 2005’s festival, the previously bloodiest wind outing ever.

Islamic Tessellations

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

Because of a religious ban on the artistic representation of the world around us, a lot of early Islamic art tended to be of a geometric nature — intricate patterns of tile resulting in a heady mix of design, color and mathematics. As it turns out,
there is more to these patterns than meets the eye. One day, I’ll make it to the Alhambra and get to witness some of this stuff in person.

The Origamist

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

It’s interesting to read this profile of Robert J. Lang in a publication as high-profile as the New Yorker. He was featured in Discover a few months back, which I think is pretty big-time already, but its readership is nowhere as heterogeneous. It’s a good profile, and I recommend visiting Lang’s site if you’d like to see some of the models referenced in the article.

Unfolding the Universe

Tuesday, February 13th, 2007

“You have to make me another dragon!” exclaimed AH before I’d even had a chance to sit down. She was referring to the origami dragon I’d made a few weeks before, at some pub, out of a paper placemat. At some point, her husband J (who wasn’t present at The Folding) decided to find out exactly how it was done, and unfolded it all the way back to its natal square. Of course, as is typical in these cases, it was impossible to fold it back into its dragon shape once flattened, and now I was on the hook to produce a replacement.

This urge to unfold the origami, presumably to reveal its mysteries, is something I come across quite frequently. Seeing a folded paper dragon, with four legs, two wings, a tail, and a horn on top of a head at the end of a long neck, is a challenge to many. Was it really folded from a single piece of paper? No cuts? How? And a few minutes later, I’m on the books as owing another dragon.

I think it’s a fairly basic need in most intelligent people, the desire to know that as complicated as something may seem, it’s really just a permutation of objects and processes that are easy to understand. That a flat square of paper can take the form of a dragon is something that requires exploration and examination, just to make sure that the universe is operating as expected and nothing beyond the realm of an ordinary fold is transpiring.

I’m finding parallels between this and what’s going on in my nanotechnology class. We can say that all matter we encounter here on Earth is made up of protons, neutrons and electrons. These in turn are made up of a large number of esoteric and not fully-understood particles, but for our purposes let’s stop at the atomic level, just like we stop at the paper level and not get into the plant fibers and their bonding structure. Our friends the atomic particles are limited in variety, yet they combine to make a seemingly infinite realm of possible materials. Air, water, copper sulfate, sushi — these are all built from protons, neutrons and electrons, yet are as different from each other as you could imagine.

Of course, chemistry and physics have gone a long way towards explaining how these partners dance around each other and form bonds and relationships that give us the characteristics we observe, but the explanation is nowhere near complete. What’s more, new exceptions to the long-accepted psychology of atoms and molecules are being found, as I’m discovering in my nanotechnology class. Imagine two atoms, anthropomorphized into your hippie girlfriend and your nutty über-Republican uncle. Under normal circumstances, they wouldn’t bond. In fact, you could say those two will never bond, and most likely, everyone would say you are right. But take them to a German pub and watch as their mutual interest in fine lagers unfolds, and the next thing you know one of them is saying “we should do this again sometimes.” Things like this happen all the time in nanotechnology — things like gold bonding to DNA.

In a lot of ways, part of nanotechnology is trying to unfold the universe of matter into basic squares of paper, which it can then re-fold and assemble at will. Another part is trying to come up with the tools to actually make these folds — it’s not enough to dream up fantastic molecular objects with esoteric properties if you’re not able to manufacture them in the trillions. Obviously, our fingers aren’t small enough to make those folds, so we must depend on surrogate tools to manipulate these individual atoms and molecules. A lot of current nanotechnological processes are the equivalent of wadding up a billion pieces of paper and sorting through them to find the ones that are most dragon-like.

But there’s no doubt that technology and understanding are progressing at a frenetic pace in this field, and someday, maybe within our lifetime, we’ll be able to fold up whatever we need out of little molecular squares and an instruction book.

Lobster Spaghetti

Tuesday, February 13th, 2007

Me, I’m allergic to the stuff, so perhaps my interest is a bit more clinical than most others’. However, there’s no denying that this is an interesting byproduct of the trend to consume lobsters “humanely.” If you submit a whole live lobster to intense water pressure, you not only kill the lobster in seconds, but you also kill any living bacteria on it, and as a bonus, the flesh completely separates from the shell, allowing the entire contents of the lobster to be easily extracted. Keep scrolling for the picture of such a decrusted crustacean, and the sumptuous “lobster spaghetti” that can be made from its legs.


Friday, February 9th, 2007

Teh internets are st00pid, LOL! I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGER?

Get a Jobs

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007

Steve Jobs, Great Leader of cult gadgetmaker Apple, gives us his Thoughts on Music and makes me wish the Big Four record distributors had someone as intelligent and articulate as him (and his ghostwriter, should there be one) in charge. Not only are Jobs’ thoughts worth reading, but his methodology — simply being honest and remarking that DRM-locked music is the record industry’s idea and not Apple’s — is worth examining and emulating.

Bad Astronaut

Tuesday, February 6th, 2007

James Kochalka sang about waking up early from suspended animation and using the opportunity to look at reposing breasts. But this is an entirely different type of Bad Astronaut.