Barnaby’s Non-Fiction Reading Passport Entry

Log Entry: Origami from Angelfish to Zen – Peter Engel

This book is one of the most interesting non-fiction books that I have read: including a mixture of religion, science- the study of nature, mathematics and also the history of origami. It is a mixture of subjects that I never would have thought I would have come across.

Part one – Crossing the divide

Religion comes into Origami because of one of the masters of Origami, a man who has spent the whole of his life studying the folding of a sheet of paper. But that man was also highly linked with religion, believing that if he was stuck on a model he would just pray and think and god would then give him an answer. His name is Akira Yoshizawa. Yoshizawa was more on the Zen side of things. He was a man who wanted the best model he could, and not to cheat himself while folding. To do this he folded out of old fashioned paper, not mass produced, believing that it lasted longer and had a better feeling to it. Also he insisted on using the proper shapes, he allowed himself to use rectangles of paper as long as there were no inward cuts in the paper- so for example he would allow himself to use an equilateral triangle, but he would not let himself use a star as it he considered it to be cheating using already pointed points to fold. He would also not allow himself to cut the model. Yoshizawa made thousands of models in his lifetime: approximately 3 models a day. He is one of the masters of origami.

The book investigates the crossing of the line between thinking in the way of the Zen while folding (what Yoshizawa was doing), and folding with the maths. Showing this are studies from Esher’s tessellations, from black to white, side by side, morphing in-between each other:

Part two – The Floating Square

In this section the author explains in a more mathematical way the properties of the square and maths behind it. It also investigates how to make origami with technology.

Near the beginning of this section the author talks about the first thought of origami, the mechanism to what you do when you want to invent a model. So if you wanted to fold a snake, then your first immediate response would be to pleat the paper from corner to corner giving the best possible length, making a long thin snake- but then you think: wait, hasn’t that been used thousands of times by thousands of other folders? Could there be another possible way to do it? So then you think through your entire possible snake names in memory until one strikes you- a snake that is coiled up! Then you think of a way of making that, a pleated square curled round to meet itself, but unaligned by one pleat. Then the process goes on from there thinking about how to link the two sides of the sheet together. So the process is not just a sudden “Oh, I am going to make a snake and I know how to get a good base for it.” There requires thinking, crossing out options and more thinking and then a solution could form. This section includes a big subject of critical thinking skills, and finding processes. It is sudden realisation that is interesting: many folders and people who have tried to find things get that “Eureka” moment when least expected. This is probably because even though they do not realize it, while they are in their sleep or just relaxing their mind is working around the solution, so sometimes you could just wake up in your sleep with the answer.

Peter Engel then moves on with the discovery of invention, stating that ‘Simple elements make beautiful works’. That is how the world was made and how nature invents, it gets a few simple elements, multiplied and does whatever it wants with them and get a beautiful thing. One example for this, is snow; the Koch snowflake. An equilateral triangle duplicated millions of times, just this can make a beautiful thing. In that case a snowflake. So now the maths is linked in…       … And then music. Music can be compared with origami because of its simple elements becoming a big picture. But now comes in the complex part of computerized invention. To make computerized music is not too difficult, just stick some random notes in and see how it sounds. But that makes a kind of randomly generated music called White music (noise). There is not really any relation between the notes put into it; this means that we want a pattern linking the notes. But this music is too ordered: it is called Brownian music (noise). Then there’s I/f music, neither too random nor too ordered, but this music is still too bland. This is linked to origami because no matter how hard you try to use computer technology to invent models, they lack the creativity of nature and man.

From this book, the main point I learned was how so many subjects are linked together although you may not realize it.


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About Christopher Waugh

Challenging the norms of secondary teaching. Publishing every single thing my students and I create. Live in Wanaka, New Zealand - the best place in the world.

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