Saturday, May 21, 2011

On Mathematical Models of Things

This month's Stanford magazine quotes origami expert Robert Lang on the relationship between mathematics and origami - well, between mathematics and everything in the world.

"One of the things you learn in a technical education - physics or engineering - is that, you enter a field, you try to build a mathematical model of the phenomena in that field. And once you've got a mathematical model you can use the tools of math to exercise that model and sort of learn stuff for free."

He related this to origami:

"Origami felt the same. it was clear there were underlying natural laws that limit what you can and can't do. And if I could identify what these laws were explicitly, then I could use mathematical tools to make the things I really wanted to make."

But it also applies to music, gardening, and so many other right-brain activities that we don't normally think of as mathematical in nature.

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