A re-proportioned version of Brian Chan’s original design.
A re-proportioned version of Brian Chan’s original design.
More rhinos! The big one I folded out of a 3-foot square of butcher paper (the same kind I used for the turtle), about a week after I folded the first one. Shaping the larger models is actually pretty difficult, especially once you close the belly and you can’t reach inside the body to shape from the inside. The quarter is for scale.
A while back, I solicited suggestions for my next model. One of the suggestions I got was to fold Sipho Mabona’s Rhino, and I actually ended up folding it about a month later, but never got around to posting it.
Here’s a picture of the second one I folded (from 15 cm kami) with a pair of tweezers for scale. For those interested, a crease pattern with a folding reference is available on Flickr, and there’s a video of the rhino unfolding that can help with the folding sequence.
The seedling now has a pot.
Oschene’s Inscrutable Cube, folded from 15 cm Tant paper. The weave at the top is really cool, but it’s actually kind of hard to put things in it…
Crease pattern and a photo guide available on his Flickr.
A couple days late, but happy spring!
The model is titled “Spring” and was designed by Snowblue. Further information & diagrams here.
Note: This post is monumentally long, since it’s essentially a large diatribe. It’s also not specifically about bio, but it relates (tangentially) to some of the stuff we talked about in class today and (centrally) some larger thoughts as well. Read it at your peril.
Most of us know someone whom we consider to be extremely intelligent. “Geniuses,” we call them. “Superhuman.” This blog is little more than me on a soap box, so I figured I’d use that box to make a few comments on the idea of intelligence, talent, genius, achievement and potential.
I think most of this begs the question of what intelligence actually is. A quick google search of “define:intelligence” tells me that intelligence is “the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills.” To me this breaks down into two things: (1) learning new things, and (2) using those things. Merriam-Webster tells me it’s about making connections and understanding patterns. Wikipedia notes that we have definitions of intelligence in terms of abstract thought, understanding, self-awareness, communication, reasoning, learning, having emotional knowledge, retaining, planning, and problem solving.
That’s a lot of stuff, and I think it points to the bigger idea that we really have no clue what intelligence actually is. Yes, we can point to smart people, the easiest way being IQ tests, and we can say they’re more intelligent than us, But what does that actually mean?
As a 17-year old caught up in the college rat race, I have an idea of what intelligence could be. I’ve been told what other people think about intelligence as well. I’ve seen the lists of people with the highest IQs (198 is the highest in the world), watched as parents judge people’s intelligence by their SAT scores, and felt the pangs of envy when someone gets a better grade on a test. I’ve watched as people around me (throughout school) have been put on a pedestal by teachers and students for being geniuses, super-achievers of some extreme, unachievable level. As Mr. Lebowski notes, these people have what can be described as “a lifetime of achievement.”
And I think it’s also naive not to realize that we’re constantly being judged in terms of how intelligent we are. Teachers like to talk to the smarter kids more, coaches spend more time with the kids who “get it,” and parents are constantly comparing us to some predetermined standard of what constitues a “successful” person at our stage of life. For me, at this point, intelligence has largely been defined by IQ tests, grades, and test scores. Success has been defined, in one word, as “Harvard.”
This strikes me as monumentally stupid.
As an Asian-American, I’ve been basically indoctrinated with the idea of what it means to be a good person. Be caring, go to Harvard, become a doctor or engineer, make lots of money, marry someone worth marrying, have some kids, make sure they go to Harvard, retire, and die. This is the “American dream” for us. It’s equally moronic.
Bellarmine hosted a talk by Jack Dorsey the other night. In it, he talked a lot about how he became the cofounder of Twitter and the CEO of Square. After going to high school, graduating, and attending NYU, he dropped out of college to join a computer company. After a few years, he wandered around taking an array of jobs, from bike courier to massage therapist. Eventually, he found a job at a software company, where he and a few friends developed the idea of Twitter from the 160-character limits on SMS’s.
Jack Dorsey is, as most of us would agree, incredibly successful. Had we ever met him before he founded Twitter, we would have probably called him monumentally stupid. This is a guy who’s trying to become a massage therapist, who has had no steady paying job for the past 5 years, who lives in a 400 square foot apartment. This doesn’t seem very successful. This doesn’t seem very intelligent.
I am 900% sure that no self-respecting immigrant parent from Asia would let their kid do anything like this. In fact, the only Asian-American I know to truly do what he loved while ignoring his family has been branded an embarrasment to the family.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is we have a very specific definition of success - one that seems to be continually challenged by those who break the system and go on to succeed. This isn’t to say that failure isn’t possible with their approach - in fact, it’s several times more probable. But what do you know about Tyler Durden?
This definition of success is there in life, but there’s also a definition for what we should do in school. What’s the ideal student? SATs of 2400, 4.0+ GPA, multiple extracurriculars with leadership positions, competitions and awards of national or international significance, Intel or Siemens semifinalist. A “well-rounded” individual.
But I’d like to submit to you that this entire idea, this whole plan and metric, the system if you will, is bullshit.
Let’s take the conventional standard of intelligence, the IQ test. The average IQ score is about 100. The term “genius” is generally applied to IQs greater than 140. So we should expect those with the highest IQs to also be the most successful - they’re the smartest, after all.
This doesn’t bear out in real life though. The people who score highest on IQ tests tend not to be world-famous or have momentous discoveries. Richard Feynman, one of the greatest scientsists of all time, had an IQ of 120 - which seems high, until you consider the massive error factor in the IQ test and realize that he’s close enough to the norm so as to be considered of “average” intelligence.
The second standard of intelligence we largely look at are SAT scores, AP test scores, and grades. What do these things measure? For the most part, they measure your ability to remember things. The SAT math and writing sections are an exercise in memorizing rules, and the critical reading section is itself largely based upon memorizable clues and triggers.
AP tests are very obvious in their reliance on recall instead of analysis and understanding; the AP Physics B test, for example, is simply a 3 hour exercise in plug-and-play science, throwing whatever formula seems appropriate at the problem. AP Biology has been for the longest time a memorization contest to see who can remember the most about life. AP English Lit is a question of memorizing works and their themes.
Grades are by far the worst. What kinds of things are we tested on? The facts, the little details and trivialities in the book that nobody remembers. Spanish tests are an exercise in memorizing vocabulary, English tests a grand test of how much of a lecture you can recall in 50 minutes, math tests a game to see how many formulas you can remember, science tests a 3-hour cram session the day before trying to internalize every word of the book.
But what makes you truly intelligent? It isn’t the ability to get a math question right, or to be able to tell the teacher what they told you about The Great Gatsby a month ago. The best can memorize hundreds of digits at a time - yet nobody considers them a “genius” in the same way we consider Leonardo Da Vinci a genius.
So what truly does make a genius? For most, it’s the ability to make connections, to understand things, to put two and two together to make four when nobody else can. We see this as innate, as a skill reserved for a mighty few and not for the rest of us.
This is also nonsense.
Genius does not come with innate abilities to understand concepts. No God points at a child when they’re born and say “You, you will be of average intelligence. Your IQ from here on out is 105.” That’s ridiculous.
No, what makes a genius is practice. Long hours spent puzzling out connections and understanding what makes things tick. The people we think of as the greatest to walk this planet didn’t get that way because of an oversized brain, they got that way because they burned hour upon hour trying to figure out how things worked. And that’s not something reserved for the Chosen People - that’s something we can all do.
The 10,000 hour rule is a well-known cliche by most people analyzing success. Coined by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, it dictates that it takes 10,000 hours of practice focused on improvement to become a master in a specific area.
What matters isn’t the specific number of hours, or the truth or falsity of that specific rule. What matters is the idea that anyone can become great, that anyone has the capacity to be another Einstein or Da Vinci or Newton, if they truly put their mind to it.
We tend to deify the younger people of us who achieve what we have not. We see the test scores, the competitions won, the trophies and awards, but we do not see the hours spent in front of a computer or on a book, the countless moments spent studying and trying to understand.
This is not genius. This is very mundane. It requires only discipline. It needs no superhuman placed on Earth to grace us all with his presence.
And discipline is no inborn trait. The past decade has featured a major emphasis on studying willpower in psychology, and most of the research has arrived at a single conclusion - discipline is a muscle. The more you exercise it, the better it gets. The more time you spend studying, the more time you spend staying off of Facebook and Gmail and Twitter, the easier it gets in the future.
Donald Knuth is a computer science god. His book, The Art of Computer Programming, is still used by colleges today as a foundational and seminal text on computer science. Knuth wasn’t a genius who was born with some innate understanding of how computers worked. He struggled to put things together, built up his skills over a long period of time, and eventually achieved mastery.
Donald Knuth does not have an email. The reason? As he writes on his website, http://www-cs-faculty.stanford.edu/~knuth/email.html, “Email is a wonderful thing for people whose role in life is to be on top of things. But not for me; my role is to be on the bottom of things. What I do takes long hours of studying and uninterruptible concentration. I try to learn certain areas of computer science exhaustively; then I try to digest that knowledge into a form that is accessible to people who don’t have time for such study.”
This is a genius built on the foundation of work, work, and more work.
I know it’s trite to say all success comes with hard work and dedication. That’s also nonsense, just as much as it is nonsense to say we are all bound by our genetics and we can never measure up to so-and-so’s genius. But it does mean we have control over those things, that nothing is truly out of reach.
So ultimately, my point is about more than the idea that you can develop the same genius you see in others. It’s about more than the idea that success isn’t due to inborn traits or natural predispositions.
In a larger sense, this is about the idea that no human is a god. No person deserves to be viewed with awe. Why should they be? They’re only human, after all. You’re human too. What they did, you can do. But you can do it better. You know where they went wrong, where they screwed up - and you know what they did right, how they did it.
College decisions start coming out in about two weeks. For most of us, this comes as a basic validation of the hierarchies we’ve set up over the past four years at Bellarmine. We know who’s supposed to do what, who is more intelligent than whom. Or we think we know.
And I think what I’m trying to get at is the idea that just because you didn’t get into Stanford doesn’t mean your life is over. It means you didn’t win this particular race, didn’t meet this specific set of standards about what it means to be successful. But there’s more to it than that. There’s more to life than high school. And the best thing you can do is realize the world is larger than 1600 people, that nobody will actually care what you did as a high school student after another year except for other parents trying to get their kid into college.
And I’m trying to say that you should ignore that. That you should realize that there’s more to life than who got the best grade on the Chapter 17 bio test. That all the stuff we’ve set up at this point about who’s smart and who’s not, about who’s going to cure cancer and invent a teleporter and who isn’t, is utter and complete bullshit. If you’re still reading, and if you have an extra few minutes, I strongly suggest you read this article by David Brooks (who, while being a total pseudointellectual, really got this one right): http://goo.gl/2KAWS.
And the one way you can truly ensure you are a failure is if you spend the rest of your life doing what other people want you to do, if you burn the one and only chance you have on this planet in service of something you don’t even believe in. Nothing is out of reach - don’t sell yourself short. Obligatory Wayne Gretzky quote: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” So take the damn shot, and screw the odds.
Nobody knows where they’re going to be in ten years. Nobody knows what they’re going to be doing in fifty. If they say they do, they’re either lying or full of themselves and malarkey. After this next semester, you have a clean slate. You have another chance. Trite as it may sound, you can be whoever the hell you want to be. Sure, you may not have every advantage - but that’s not insurmountable. You’ve got an opportunity.
Don’t waste it.
So, so true.
damn this man is awesome.
also, happy friday!
In its free time, the Ancient Dragon enjoys snacking on medium-sized animals, like this small version of Roman Diaz’s wild boar.
In other news, tracing paper, though thin and strong, does not take well to being shaped…
Now at around step 235, all there really is to do is to finish folding the head flaps and shape the whole model… I spy a ton of shaping to do…
Now we’re just past step 180, and the main body plan of the dragon has really taken shape. You can see the huge thick flaps that will make up the legs and head, as well as the super long and super thin tail and wing flaps. These updates are coming faster today, because I actually finished it and I want to get it out sooner. They are also shorter because I exhausted my rants on the first few.
Anyway, here are some of the sinks and some of the layers I was talking about… These pictures come around step 175, after all the little flaps around the head (that’s what you’re looking at) have already been formed. The other reason it’s really thick is that many of the layers had to be shifted around in order to get it to lie flat, so like half the model gets folded over itself. More to come soon!
Update #2, and we’re probably about 100 or so steps in. As you may or may not be able to see (my photography is pretty bad here), the model has only gotten thicker, and I can’t be bothered to count the layers here, but there’s probably more than a quarter inch of tracing paper at the thickest point, which is pretty scary given how thin tracing paper is… I don’t think I’ve had any major rips yet, though that will probably change soon as the paper gets overworked…
The other thing that bugs me at this point is the sink folds… Unlike Lang’s, which are used mainly for thinning flaps, and as a result are pretty straightforward, Kamiya uses them here to shape the model, meaning that the sinks go at angles, and often intersect with other complicated folds and each other, meaning that you have to deal with a million different little folds going every which way on an open sink… Also very frustrating is the fact that the layers have now kind of sealed themselves in, meaning that there are all these little closed off pockets in the model, and when you try to sink them, you can’t reach your hand behind the layer you want to sink because it’s stuck behind 50 layers of paper…
This better be worth it…
Ok, so since I am impatient, I decided to go ahead and fold the first viable suggestion I got, before other people had a chance to answer my question. Consequently, over the past few days, I have been in the process of folding Satoshi Kamiya’s Ancient Dragon. Because of its complexity, however, I’m still not done, and haven’t really been able to fold anything else in the meantime, and I haven’t been really able to update…
So, I’ve decided to post some pictures of the progress that I’ve been making to make this blog a little less boring, and so I can vent some of my frustration on the internet. So here is the first update, about 60 steps in (out of 274), and sort of the first base of the model. You can see most of the major flaps here, where the two triangles sticking out are the wings, the middle flap on top is for the head, and the bottom middle flap is the tail. All the legs and such are all bunched up in the tip on the righthand side, making it very thick (there are 76 layers of paper, I counted). It’s been pretty much smooth folding up to this point, as everything is still pretty geometric.
Anyway, stay tuned for more, where the model only gets thicker, and the weaknesses of tracing paper are revealed! Ok that was lame, but I have nothing better to offer right now.