The Demaines like to blur the lines between art and mathematics, by freely moving from designing sculpture to proving theorems and back again. Paper folding is a great setting for this approach, as it mixes a rich geometric structure with a beautiful art form. Mathematically, they are continually developing algorithms to fold paper into any shape you desire.
Sculpturally, they have been exploring curved creases, which remain poorly understood mathematically but have potential applications in robotics, deployable structures, manufacturing, and self-assembly. By integrating science and art, the Demaines constantly find new inspirations, problems, and ideas, proving that sculptures do or don’t exist, or illustrating mathematical beauty through physical beauty. Collaboration, particularly as a father-son team, has been a powerful way for us to bridge these fields. Lately, they are exploring how folding changes with other materials, such as hot glass. This will open a new approach to glassblowing and find fresh ways for paper and glass to interact.
The two Demaines—father and son—work closely together and have many joint works of both mathematics and art. Erik Demaine, a MacArthur Fellow and Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow, is a member of the Theory of Computation Group and the Algorithms Group at CSAIL—Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory—at MIT. An accomplished artist, his interests include origami and glassblowing. Several of his curved origami sculptures are housed in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, in New York.
Martin Demaine is the Angelika and Barton Weller Artist in Residence in the MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, a technical instructor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering Glass Lab, and a member of the Theory of Computation Group at CSAIL. Martin is Erik’s father.