From Numbers to Paper Cranes
Oct 21, 2011
“The idea that science and art are separate is one of the great lies of our culture,” says Dr. Robert Lang, his voice echoing off the walls of a classroom in Jones Science Center.
To celebrate 100 years of mathematics at Concordia, the math department brought in a professional origamist. Lang creates intricate works of art by folding single sheets of paper. Even more remarkable than his work is the way he incorporates math into it.
During his talks at Concordia, he cited concepts and tools like graph theory, angles and vertices, which help him with his art. Lang is considered a pioneer in computational origami and has written books about his algorithms and geometric concepts for origami.
“It was really cool to see how complex origami could be and that there were actual rules and math that went into it,” says Stef Miller ’14, Fergus Falls, Minn.
So how exactly does someone become a professional origamist?
When Lang was in college, he majored in electrical engineering. He then went on to study lasers and earned his doctorate in applied physics.
Lang has done origami in his spare time ever since he was 6 years old. Eventually, he realized he could use theoretical mathematical concepts to help his origami, and thus he had a difficult decision – stay in his job or do origami?
“The way I looked at it was this, there are lots of guys who can be managers, but there was only ever one guy who could write the book that I had in my mind,” Lang says.
So Lang took a risk and chose to pursue his vision of becoming a professional origami artist, fusing his interests in math and art. Thus far, he has authored 13 books and one CD-ROM on origami.
Lang says it’s important to follow dreams and that it’s OK to change majors. A person does their best work when they’re doing what they love, and that is exactly what Lang has been fortunate enough to do.