Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

MIT geeks + Thanksgiving = spectacular origami designs

Basic origami is as simple as folding a piece of paper according to instructions. However, a group of MIT students decided to take that concept up a notch and tackle the geometrical complexities behind elaborate shapes. Basic origami is as simple as folding a piece of paper according to instructions. However, a group of MIT students decided to take that concept up a notch and tackle the geometrical complexities behind elaborate shapes.
HIDE CAPTION
Exapanding the boundaries of paper
Nerdy Thanksgiving
Where math meets art
Four hour fold
Developing new templates
Origami analysis
No just for geniuses
Big brain requirement
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A group of MIT students started an origami club to push the boundaries of paper folding
  • The club explores the geometrical nature of origami to create complicated shapes
  • They recently created an elaborate Thanksgiving inspired tableau

(Wired) -- In theory, Origami is simple: Take a sheet of paper, follow the dotted lines and without the use of scissors or glue, you've got a paper crane. It stands to reason that if you're good at following instructions, you're good at origami.

And that's true—anyone can fold their way to a simple paper crane. But truly grasping the geometric complexities of that crane? That's actually pretty brainy stuff.

Nerdy Thanksgiving

Origami is arguably more math than art, so it makes sense then that MIT would have a thriving origami scene. Every Sunday, a group of around 20 to 30 people gather on campus to experiment with paper folding techniques. Most recently, the group folded a series of turkeys, cornucopias, pine cones and vegetables to create a gorgeously nerdy Thanksgiving tableau.

Read more: Wildly detailed drawings that combine math and butterflies

Timelapse: Watch kayak fold like origami

If you're not a math person, it might seem incomprehensible to fashion a turkey out of a single piece of paper, but for Yongquan Lu and his fellow OrigaMIT members, it's an entertaining challenge. Lu, a sophomore mathematics major at MIT, is the incoming president of of OrigaMIT, and has been practicing paper folding since high school.

"I really love how systematic origami is," he says. "It's the perfect combination of math and art."

The math behind the art

Every origami model you see relies on a blueprint—a series of pre-determined creases that will guide the folder through the process. In the beginning, precise, careful folding can get you pretty far, but if you want to start riffing on designs or creating your own, you have to have more than an elementary grasp on some basic mathematical principles.

"I got more involved in investigating the connections between math and geometry behind it," he says. "These days a lot of the stuff I fold is a lot more geometric, more tessellations." For the Thanksgiving scene, Lu contributed the cornucopia basket, which he nonchalantly describes as a "pretty well-known conical, flat tessellation pattern."

Read more: Mind-blowing portraits made of test tubes and pushpins

It's the perfect combination of math and art.
Yongquan Lu, MIT student

Most of the students at MIT approach paper folding with a highly-technical slant. It's not uncommon for the group to have a lengthy discussion about reverse-engineering each of the diagram's folds or talk about polyhedral shapes and hexagonal symmetry. "We'll ask ourselves, 'Ok, where does this step come from, why does a designer choose to do it like this? Or I wonder if I started with these proportions, what would happen?" Lu explains. "That really comes out of the engineering background of a lot of our members."

No need for whizz skills

Lu is quick to clarify that though OrigaMIT probably tends to be slightly more math-centric than your typical origami club, you don't need to possess A Beautiful Mind-caliber math skills to join in.

Sure, the peacock-like turkey took more than three hours to fold, but if you look around, there are tons of simple yet beautiful contributions like the vegetables, leaves and pine cones. "We wanted to show that there are models of varying complexities. Sometimes people get intimidated because they think we're folding all of these complex models," he says. "But actually everyone can get involved—it's not something that's exclusive and insular in any way."

Read more from WIRED:

Powerful Photos Go Deep Inside America's Fracking Boom

How a Math Genius Hacked OkCupid to Find True Love

The Most Amazing Images NASA Took of Earth From Space

A Teeny House Filled With Clever, Space-Saving Contraptions

11 Must-Watch New Netflix Movies to Stream in 2014

Subscribe to WIRED magazine for less than $1 an issue and get a FREE GIFT! Click here!

Copyright 2011 Wired.com.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
CNN Style
updated 6:46 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
L.A. artist Christine McConnell styles herself as a glamorous pin-up, but her sumptuous cakes evoke the Tim Burton-esque realm of fantasy.
updated 12:51 PM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
A new generation of creatives are taking code to a more colorful realm, using digital media to push the boundaries of art.
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
From space vacuums to dial-less phones, 50 objects offer a colorful glimpse into daily life behind the Iron Curtain.
updated 11:36 AM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
Every June, 200,000 perfectly styled people attend the Glastonbury Festival, known as much for the music as the glamor on its muddy fields.
updated 7:24 PM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
What does an acclaimed chef do for an encore after he's closed the best restaurant in the world? Starts looking for the key to all creativity.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
French photographer takes us on a nostalgic trip to the golden age of Hollywood with images of glamorous movie palaces of the art deco era.
updated 4:54 AM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
BASEL, SWITZERLAND - JUNE 17: Visitor walk next to the artwork 'Continuel Mobile - Sphere rouge' by Michelangelo Pistoletto in the Unlimited section of Art Basel on June 17, 2014 in Basel, Switzerland. Art Basel one of the most prestigious art fair in the world, which runs until the 22nd of June 2014 will showcase the work of more than 4,000 artists selected by 300 leading galleries. (Photo by Harold Cunningham/Getty Images)
Over 92,000 people flocked to Art Basel, a top international contemporary art fair, to see works by the likes of Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Tue July 15, 2014
CNN bring you the latest from the Olympics of architecture, this year directed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Rem Koolhaas.
updated 7:30 AM EDT, Wed June 18, 2014
After years of research art experts and scientists have found a painting hidden underneath Picasso's 1901 masterpiece "The Blue Room."
updated 12:54 PM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
A convoy of the world's most luxurious supercars drives from England to the Monaco Grand Prix, causing a stir along the way.
updated 12:54 PM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
This is what happens when seven world-class architects design bus stops in a tiny Austrian village.
updated 7:20 AM EDT, Tue June 3, 2014
A new exhibition in New York shows that when it comes to the art of origami, it takes a lot more than just folding paper.
updated 2:07 AM EDT, Mon May 26, 2014
Vivid Sydney, a festival of light, music, and ideas, sets the sails of the iconic Sydney Opera House alight.
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Fri May 23, 2014
Atlanta's High Museum of Art is showcasing 17 visionary concept cars worth millions.
updated 5:22 PM EDT, Mon May 12, 2014
Flamboyant gowns, sparkling jewels and A-list celebrities.
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Mon May 19, 2014
Wealthy Asian collectors propel sales sky-high at the annual art extravaganza.
ADVERTISEMENT