2/15/2018 Peter Durantine

Math Shows Origami's Great Purpose in the Modern Age, Speaker Says

Co-author of two books on the art of folding paper, Thomas Hull sprang to the stage in Franklin & Marshall College’s Mayser Gym Feb. 15 to share his excitement about the ancient tradition.

“I love talking about origami,” the associate professor of mathematics at Western New England University said. “I also love math. Thank you for coming to a math talk!”

Hull spoke at Common Hour, the community conversation conducted each Thursday classes are in session. He also is author of “Project Origami: Activities for Exploring Mathematics,” now in its second edition, which uses the art form to teach math. 

  • Thomas Hull, the Western New England University professor of mathematics, is author of "Project Origami: Activities for Exploring Mathematics." Thomas Hull, the Western New England University professor of mathematics, is author of "Project Origami: Activities for Exploring Mathematics." Image Credit: eric forberger

The mathematician distributed small square paper sheets to everyone in the audience. He asked them to mark a dot in the middle of the paper, directed them to fold and sharply crease the paper along the dot, and then do it several more times to understand how math applies to the art.

“There are two types of creases: mountain creases and valley creases,” Hull said. “You can fold the paper into something, but you can also unfold it and look at the crease patterns that look like blueprints of the origami folds.”

He folded the art into a discussion about how, because of math, scientists and engineers are using origami in the design and manufacture of everything from robots and microscopic polymers to solar panels for spacecraft to more effective sound barriers for highways.

“Why over the past six years or so have engineers, physicists and other scientists suddenly jumped on the origami bandwagon? To the extent that there are government grants to fund origami research,” Hull said.

People, he said, are using origami to design solutions to the challenges of the modern age.

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