No. 61 - JWST ⫶ All art starts with a material ⫶ Rabbit Years
Grow, rather than scale
My name is Linda. I write a bi-weekly newsletter about computer science, childhood, and culture - and there are 9710 of you listening. If you enjoy this issue, please share it with anyone who may find it helpful.
It reminded me of a project I never finished - recreating the golden, graceful mirror in origami, so I decided to try it again. (Here's the official JWST mirror instruction and another starshade if you want to try it out. I’ve been folding along ESA.)
It was the most relaxed I've felt all week.
Folding paper, tessellation, and origami are ways of exploring the material resistance of paper, but also tools to think about more abstract properties. It's no wonder both mathematicians and artists love them.
Curved and circular origami date to Joseph Albers and the late 1920s Bauhaus, but they also have interesting computational properties. I love this story about Albers:
Josef Albers entered the room, carrying with him a bunch of newspapers. … [and] then addressed us … "Ladies and gentlemen, we are poor, not rich. We can't afford to waste materials or time. … All art starts with a material, and therefore we have first to investigate what our material can do. So, at the beginning we will experiment without aiming at making a product. At the moment we prefer cleverness to beauty. … Our studies should lead to constructive thinking. … I want you now to take the newspapers … and try to make something out of them that is more than you have now. I want you to respect the material and use it in a way that makes sense — preserve its inherent characteristics. If you can do without tools like knives and scissors, and without glue, [all] the better."
I've listed some paper-based computational play activities here for kids, but there should and could be an update. Paper folding as a way to explore ideas around math concepts like matrices and graphs is in many ways the perfect constructive material.
Ideas matter, and a writing fellowship on biology looks impressive. I love that science writing is having this moment. Application deadline Oct 30th.
Claire L. Evans is quickly becoming my favorite writer. Her Against Scale gives me a vocabulary to expand on something I was trying to find words for in the context of my work. So good! "Life is nonhierarchical, and it shirks top-down control. But scalability relies on hierarchy, on the isolation of elements stripped of history and context. It is predicated on the assumption that nature is little more than a raw material to be processed and commodified until it is spent. This is, of course, unsustainable — at any scale. So what is the alternative? Can we redefine "scalability" as a process as dense, complex, and generative as the living world? And more pointedly, could synthetic biology grow, rather than Scale, benefiting the communities and ecosystems it impacts without the ruinous damage of its industrial predecessors?"
I’m hoping to surface and share stories from all of you and I’d love to see your creations! Here are a few teachers using Ruby in creative, fun and inspiring ways.