Robots that arrive flat, fold themselves into three dimensions, then walk away–it sounds like the future, but this future is already here in the engineering labs at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. The robots are based on folding techniques practiced for centuries by origami artists who create paper sculptures from single pieces of paper. For this robot project, supervised by Sam Felton, a doctoral candidate at Harvard University’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the paper has been lined with Shrinky Dink, a children’s toy plastic that shrinks when heated. Tiny circuits in the flat robot heat and bend the paper into position without the help of human hands. Batteries and a small motor enable the robot to walk, and although these are not currently flat components, eventually two-dimensional versions will be available. Jesse Silverberg, a graduate student in physics at Cornell, says, “Imagine this: A building collapses, and you have a snakelike robot that can go into debris. And as it unfolds, it goes from a soft robot to a rigid barrier that could protect people. It folds one way to crawl into tight spaces and another way to become a protective barrier. It can transform its function on the fly.” To see this robot in action, visit the Bloomberg News article on the subject.
January 27, 2015
January 1, 2015
We thought this little bird would brighten your holidays with her paper cutting skills. It looks like Bebe is dressing up for a fancy party, adding tail extensions. (Actually this is typical lovebird behavior. The birds gather materials for their nests and carry them tucked in their feathers). Watch her on video here.
December 21, 2014
Paris-based artist/author Julie Stephen Chheng has created this charming five-volume set of little books which sequentially unfold into a full tableau based on specific themes. Each is illustrated by a different artist. My favorite is Le Cinéma because I like the drawings by Serge Bloch of patrons in their movie seats. Other themes are Le Foot (The Rugby Match), La Plage (The Beach), La Fête (The Party, illustrated by Chheng), and Le Voleur (The Thief). To see videos of the illustrations in action, visit Vimeo here.
November 2, 2014
October 30, 2014
This lovely book based on shadow play incorporates delicate paper-cut forms which, when lit from the side, cast shaped shadows onto the facing pages. As a light is moved to various positions, the shadows move, too, interacting with the illustrations to complete them in a wordless dance. Designed by Japanese artists Megumi Kajiwara and Tathuhiko Nijima, the books are made to order by hand. To see the book in action, watch this delightful video.
August 2, 2014
Mindell Dubansky, preservation librarian at the Thomas J. Watson Library in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, has a passion for books that aren’t books — they’re objects shaped like books, which she describes as “blooks.” She’s been collecting these faux tomes for the past twenty years, and was recently featured in the New York Times for her collection in the article Collecting Books that are Just Covers. Her interests range from blooks that are perfume containers, flasks, guns, and radios in disguise, to patents and photos of book-shaped billboards and buildings. Check out her intriguing Blook Blog here.
April 16, 2014
Manu Prakash, an assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford’s School of Medicine, along with his colleagues, has designed what they are calling a “foldscope” or origami paper microscope. The foldscope is printed onto a sheet of card stock with an optical lense, LED light, and watch battery embedded in the layout. Produced for about fifty cents each, the flat printed sheet easily folds into a working three-dimensional microscope with up to 2000 times magnification. This could be a real game-changer in developing countries trying to improve health by identifying disease pathogens. The paper microsope is lightweight and very durable–perfect under harsh field conditions. To learn more, watch Mr. Prakash’s TED talk. Thank you to Leslie Wright and Paulette Rosen for bringing this to our attention!
April 15, 2014
Paper has been in the news lately with the announcement of the Pritzker Prize for architecture going to Shigeru Ban, noted for his emergency shelters and buildings made of paper tubes. The 56-year-old Japanese architect has designed temporary paper shelters for refugees and victims of disasters in areas such as Rwanda, Kobe (Japan), Turkey, India and New Zealand. The tubes are a perfect building material because they’re inexpensive, readily available in various diameters and quite strong. They also can be bent and weatherized. Ban’s “Paper Log House,” shown here, is an example of these emergency shelters. The tubes are secured in sand-filled beer cases and the house is covered with canvas tenting for its roof.
Ban has also used tubes in constructing a school in China, a church in New Zealand, a gallery in Japan and a bridge, shown here, in France. To learn more of his work and philosophy of socially conscious architecture, check out these web sites:
December 16, 2013
A recent visit to the Smithsonian’s Museum of African Art introduced us to the work of South African photographer Roger Ballen. Ballen combines rendered line drawings and black-and-white photography into visual still lives which often surprise and shock. One series titled “The Asylum” features collages of strange figures, snakes, skins, and wire hangers that present awkward relationships and absurd complexities .
The exhibit ends with a showing of the video I Fink U Freeky, a 2012 collaboration between Ballen and the South African rap-rave group Die Antwoord (Afrikaans for “The Answer.” ) It brings to mind the work of Diane Arbus, Joel Peter Witkin, and John Waters in its unabashed appropriation of trashy and bizarre images to question social and political mores and taboos. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but there is something haunting and strangely beautiful in Die Antwoord’s dance moves and raw lyrics. We commend the museum for showing this uncensored piece which some visitors will find offensive, but that will introduce others to a vigorous counterculture movement in a country with one of Africa’s most complex histories. Here’s the video link.
December 9, 2013
Yesterday was the annual Parade of Lights on the water in the Alexandria harbor. Each year, boat owners decorate their vessels with holiday lights and glide up and down the Potomac River, vying for cash prizes. We were lucky enough to be on the jurors’ vessel, the Miss Mallory, which is owned by our neighbors in Glen Echo. The fun began around 5:30 just as it was getting dark. A train of lights appeared from the north, and each passing craft slowly navigated past us, hoping for a positive reaction from the jurors. Many crew members were in seasonal outfits — one boat was entirely manned by Santas.
As we drank wine and munched on pop-corn, the news crew on the upper deck caught the festivities on film for those not able to attend. Here are more photos of the boats.