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The Great Origami Maths and Science Show

17 July 2006

Folding art into science!

BOOK NOW for the Great Origami Maths and Science Show touring NZ in August 2006
Say the word ‘origami’ to most people and they will picture sharply creased models of birds, fish or frogs. But say it to Jonathan Baxter and Hugh Gribben, and they will tell you their origami is both a performance art and a science!

These two master paper-folders have worked their way through a sheer mountain of paper as they prepare for the New Zealand tour of their uniquely titled Great Origami Maths and Science Show.

As secondary teachers around the country start planning how to engage the enquiring minds of their maths and science students in Term 3, Jonathan and Hugh are offering up to them the ultimate maths class field trip – a one hour journey into the realms of a new field of origami – origami maths.

If this all sounds a bit obscure, try googling the words science, maths and origami - you’ll end up with half a millions hits and range of weird and wonderful websites that explore the application of origami in engineering, math and technology. It appears the ancient sculptural art form of origami has undergone a 21st century makeover! Across the globe, mathematicians and engineers with a fondness for origami have applied the rigour of scientific discipline to their hobby and yielded some fascinating results.

Origamists are now able to fold, from a single, uncut square of paper, objects where no sheet of paper has gone before; and are able to portray levels of realism and expression never seen in the art form’s lengthy history.

The simple and stylized animals of the past, which relied as much on the viewer's imagination as on the folder's skill, have been joined by bugs and beasts bristling with anatomically correct legs and teeth. Some folders are exploring new subject matter, such as elaborate cuckoo clocks or working Swiss army knives. Others venture into the abstract world of mathematics, assembling spectacular interlocking polyhedra or tile mosaics, or defying straight-line geometry to sculpt graceful curves.

Professor Robert Lang, international advisor to the Origami Show and a laser physicist from Pleasanton, California, has been a key player in moving origami into the electronic age. Author of a computer program called TreeMaker, he can take any stick figure outline and calculate a pattern of creases that will produce that figure. This enabled him to create origami animals that were considered impossible years ago and pioneer a new field of mathematics called “computational origami” (the solution of origami problems by mathematical means).

Origami can also be found in a range of everyday items. The folds in the top of a milk carton – origami. The way vehicle airbags are neatly squirreled away inside the driving column of your car – origami technology. The incredible way artery stents used in coronary surgery unfold inside the body – origami mechanism. Roadmaps - surely there must be a better way to fold them that makes them easier to return to their flattened state? Origamists are working on that one too and may soon have some answers for us!

Clearly there is so much more to origami than just paper folding!

Thanks to support from the Royal Society of New Zealand, the Great Origami Maths and Science Show will visit a town near you in August 2006. Come and explore with these expert paperfolders, just how much maths and science is tucked away in the creases of an origami model. Book now as venues are selling out fast!

For more information, teacher resources and booking details visit

[insert local venue details from below as required]



Touring through:
Auckland, at the TelstraClear Centre, Manukau on 7 & 8 August 2006
Rotorua, at the Soundshell on 10 & 11 August 2006
Hamilton, at the Waikato Museum on 14 & 15 August 2006
Palmerston North, at Te Manawa Science Centre on 17 & 18 August 2006
Wellington, at Capital E on 21-25 August 2006
Christchurch, at Science Alive on 28 & 29 August 2006
Dunedin, at Otago Museum on 31 August and 1 September 2006

For show times, venue contact and booking details visit and download the booking sheet.

Sponsored By: The Royal Society of New Zealand through its Science and Technology Promotion Fund.

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