Computational Origami on Stage at Capitol Hill Briefing
The most recent AMS-MSRI sponsored Congressional Briefing took place on May 22, 2018. Computer Scientist and Mathematician Erik Demaine (MIT) wowed the audience with surprising – and a surprisingly wide range of – applications of computational origami in manufacturing, robotics, public safety, space technology, and medicine. These have grown from new fundamental research in computational origami - the study of the mathematical and geometric underpinnings of the simple act of folding. MacArthur Fellow Erik Demaine has been instrumental in the development of this field.
The examples of applications that Demaine provided included life-saving car airbags that are folded based on origami; very large telescopes that fold to fit on space stations and then expand for use once when in space; and deployable origami bulletproof shields that police and other public safety officials can use in extreme tactical situations.
The briefing, entitled "Origami Meets Math, Science, and Engineering,"was held on Capitol Hill for members of Congress and their staffs. Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-9), a Ph.D. mathematician, was on hand to give remarks and spoke about the importance of federal funding for research.
Professor Demaine forcefully articulated two key messages:
- mathematics touches a truly wide variety of other scientific and engineering fields; and
- predicting what types of fundamental research will ultimately lead to innovations that improve our national security and save lives is not always straightforward.
Investing in computational origami and much of theoretical mathematics may seem, by nature, somewhat risky, but the examples in the AMS-MSRI briefings show what can happen with sustained funding from federal agencies. Investment in basic research is critical for reasons of economic and national security, and global competitiveness.
Dr. Demaine also explained how one could learn more about the applications of origami in math, science, and engineering using the following as examples of where to start:
- The documentary Between the Folds
- The PBS NOVA special entitled The Origami Revolution
- Dr. Demaine's personal website
- A course taught by Dr. Demaine, open free to the public, in his own words – "20 hours of video of me talking about origami" Free MIT class
In addition to his groundbreaking work in computational geometry, Dr. Demaine is active in many areas of computer science and mathematics, broadly connected to algorithms. He is also an acclaimed artist. His works have been shown at major museums, and some of his pieces are in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC and in New York's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).
Other Congressional Briefings:
Beginning in 2017, the AMS is partnering with MSRI to organize and host bi-annual briefings; prior to 2017, the AMS hosted annual briefings.
- December 2019, "Cryptography in the Quantum Era" presented by Jill Pipher, Brown University.
- June 2019, "Addressing Threats and Vulnerabilities in Critical Interconnected Systems: Common Principles in Disease Outbreaks, Internet Malware, and Bank Failures" presented by Jon Kleinberg, Cornell University.
- December 2018, "From the Color of Birds to Nanomaterials and New Technology" presented by Rodolfo Torres, University of Kansas.
- May 2018, "Origami Meets Math, Science, and Engineering" presented by Erik Demaine, MIT.
- December 2017, "Cryptography: How to Enable Privacy in a Data-Driven World" presented by Dr. Shafi Goldwasser, MIT.
- June 2017, "Blackboard to bedside: How high-dimensional geometry is transforming the MRI industry" presented by David Donoho, Stanford University.
- December 2016, "How Mathematical Models Predict Emerging Epidemics," presented by Mac Hyman, Tulane University.
- December 2015, "From right triangles to modern cryptography" presented by Ken Ribet, University of California-Berkeley.
- December 2014, "The Future of Mathematics: Education & Innovation" presented by Robert Ghrist, Andrea Mitchell University Professor of Mathematics and Electrical/Systems Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania.
- December 2013, "How Math Fuels the Knowledge Economy" presented by Mark L. Green, professor emeritus at the University of California-Los Angeles.
- December 2012, "Chaos and Avalanches in Science and Socio-Political Systems" presented by James A. Yorke, professor of mathematics and physics at the University of Maryland.
- December 2011, "Mathematics: Leading the Way for New Options in the Treatment of Coronary Artery Disease" presented by Suncica Canic, professor of mathematics at the University of Houston.
- October 2010, "The Gulf Oil Spill: How Can We Protect our Beaches in the Future?" presented by Andrea Bertozzi, professor of mathematics at UCLA.
- October 2009, "The Movies, the Markets and Mathematics", presented by Stuart Geman, professor of applied mathematics at Brown University.
- September 2008, "Can Mathematics Cure Leukemia?" presented by Doron Levy, associate professor of mathematics at the University of Maryland, College Park.
- September 2007, "Mathematics of Ice to Aid Global Warming Forecasts", presented by Ken Golden, professor of mathematics at the University of Utah.
- November 2006, "The Necessity of Mathematics: From Google to Counterterrorism to Sudoku", presented by Amy Langville, professor of mathematics at the College of Charleston.
- November 2005, "From Katrina Forward: How Mathematics Helps Predict Storm Surges", presented by Clint Dawson, professor at the University of Texas and a member of the Center for Subsurface Modeling in the Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences; and James Westerink, associate professor of civil engineering and geological sciences at the University of Notre Dame.
- September 2004, "Homeland Security: What Can Mathematics Do?" presented by Fred Roberts, professor of mathematics and director of the Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science (DIMACS) at Rutgers University.
- July 2003, "Mathematics is Biology's Next Microscope, Only Better; Biology is Mathematics' Next Physics, Only Better" presented by Joel E. Cohen, Laboratory of Populations, Rockefeller and Columbia Universities.
- February 2002, "Mathematics, Patterns and Homeland Security", presented by Ingrid Daubechies, Princeton University.
- July 2001, "Adding It Up: Helping Children Learn Mathematics", a briefing on this National Research Council Report presented by Deborah Loewenberg Ball and Hyman Bass, University of Michigan and by Roger Howe, Yale University.
- Other previous briefings include:
- What Does Water Know About Mathematics, by Mary Fannett Wheeler, The University of Texas at Austin
- Calculating the Secrets of Life: Mathematics in Medicine by DeWitt Sumners, Florida State University
- Eavesdropping on the Internet: Mathematics and Policy by Carl Pomerance, University of Georgia
- Mathematical Transcriptions of the Real World: Fingerprints, Magnetic Resonance and Video by Ronald Coifman, Yale University