Press Release

NASA Talk Has Art and Math in the Creases

By SpaceRef Editor
February 25, 2011
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Some would say, it’s only a paper moon, crane, rose, Hercules Beetle or stellated icosahedron, but it’s not make believe. There are advanced mathematical techniques in today’s origami sculptures, the centuries-old Japanese art of paper folding.

On Tuesday, March 1, at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Robert Lang, a pioneer in computational origami, will present “From Flapping Birds to Space Telescopes: The Mathematics of Origami,” at 2 p.m. in the Reid Conference Center. Lang is recognized as one of the foremost origami artists in the world. His development of formal design algorithms or procedures related to solving the mathematical problems of paper folding has modern engineering applications.

Media who wish to interview Lang at a news briefing at NASA Langley at 1:15 p.m. on the day of the presentation should contact Chris Rink at 864-6786 or by e-mail at by noon on the day of the talk for credentials and entry to the center.

That evening, Lang will present a similar talk for the general public at 7:30 p.m. at the Virginia Air & Space Center in downtown Hampton. The evening presentation is free and no reservations are required.

In the 1990s, there was a revolution in the development and application of origami mathematical techniques that ranged from deeply complex to highly approachable. Lang will describe how geometric concepts led to the solution of a broad class of origami folding problems; how to efficiently fold a shape with an arbitrary number and arrangement of flaps creating complicated and realistic origami designs.

The algorithms and theorems of origami design shed light on long-standing mathematical questions and solved some practical engineering problems from safer airbags to space telescopes.

Lang is a full-time artist and consultant on origami and its applications to engineering problems. He has a doctorate in applied physics from Caltech and has worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Spectra Diode Laboratories and JDS Uniphase. Lang has authored or co-authored over 80 papers and holds 45 patents in lasers and optoelectronics as well as authored, co-authored, or edited nine books and a CD-ROM on origami. From 2007-2010, he was the editor-in-chief of the IEEE Journal of Quantum Electronics.

For more information about NASA Langley’s Colloquium and Sigma Series Lectures, visit:

SpaceRef staff editor.