Brain Pickings

Computational Origami by MIT’s Erik Demaine

By:

Brain Pickings is all about the cross-pollination of ideas across disciplinary boundaries. We have a particularly soft spot for the interplay of art and mathematics — from Anatolii Fomenko’s vintage mathematical impressions to Vy Hart’s playful mathematics to Benoît Mandelbrot’s legendary fractals. So we love the work of MIT father-and-son duo Erik and Martin Demaine. In this wonderful presentation from MoMA’s now-legendary 2008 Design and the Elastic Mind exhibition, Erik reveals the extraordinary computational origami he has developed with his father, MIT’s first artist in residence.

Demaine, an endearing tried-and-true MIT-er complete with the ponytail-and-glasses combo and Comic Sans slides, embodies some of our highest ideals: From early childhood entrepreneurship to curiosity across the social strata to collaborative creation to the inspired interweaving of art and science.


Seedmagazine.com Seed Design Series

One of our growing realizations over the years is that mathematics itself is an art form, and I think that’s what attracted both of us to this area in the first place. [I]t has the same kind of creativity, the same kinds of aesthetics, that you get in art: You want a clean problem to solve, and you want an elegant solution to that problem. Both art and mathematics are about having the right ideas [and] executing those ideas in some convincing way, so in that sense they’re indistinguishable.” ~ Erik Demaine

For more of Erik Demaine’s cross-disciplinary creative genius, we highly recommend the tandem of Geometric Folding Algorithms: Linkages, Origami, Polyhedra and Games, Puzzles, and Computation.

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

Store Front: New York’s Disappearing Face

By:

Last week, we watched a poignant short documentary about how one British barber is handling the slow demise of his business, driven by the changing face of the modern city. His was one of many voices that reflect the bittersweet aftertaste as “progress” as it touches, and invariably changes, commerce and community. In Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York, photographer duo James and Karla Murray bring the same lens of retrostalgia to New York City’s morphing landscape of mom-and-pop shops. For eight years, the Murrays shot the facades of hundred of stores, more than half of which are now gone.

From the retrotastic typographic signage to the beautiful vintage color schemes, these storefronts are priceless time-capsules of an era as faded as their paint coats, haunting ghosts caught in the machine of progress.

Ideal Hoisery, Grand Street at Ludlow, Manhattan (2004)

Image courtesy of James and Karla Murray / Newsweek

Katy's Candy Store, Tompkins Avenue near Vernon Avenue, Brooklyn (2004)

Image courtesy of James and Karla Murray / Newsweek

Giovani Esposito & Sons Pork Shop, Ninth Avenue at West 39th Street, Manhattan (2004)

Image courtesy of James and Karla Murray / Newsweek

Ideal Dinettes, Knickerbocker Avenue near DeKalb Avenue, Brooklyn (2004)

Image courtesy of James and Karla Murray / Newsweek

Maries Beauty Lounge, Morris Park Avenue near Haight Avenue, The Bronx (2004)

Image courtesy of James and Karla Murray / Newsweek

We were shooting graffiti around the five boroughs and were always into the letters of graffiti, so we started to notice these signs have a lot of different interesting fonts. And we liked the stores themselves, but we’d come back and shoot the walls, because in graffiti, a lot of the walls are painted over and over, and we noticed the stores were gone.” ~ Jim Murphy

Brand's Wine & Liquors, West 145th Street near Broadway, Manhattan (2004)

Image courtesy of James and Karla Murray / Newsweek

Walters Hardware Co., Broadway near 36th Street, Queens (2006)

Image courtesy of James and Karla Murray / Newsweek

Erney's Bike Shop, East 17th Street near Third Avenue, Manhattan (2003)

Image courtesy of James and Karla Murray / Newsweek

Miller's for Prescriptions, Broad Street near Cedar Street, Staten Island (2005)

Image courtesy of James and Karla Murray / Newsweek

Nissan Seafood Wholesale, Madison Street at Catherine Street, Manhattan (2005)

Image courtesy of James and Karla Murray / Newsweek

Store Front is equal parts design candy, feat of documentary photography, and visual study in urbanism. For more on the project, Newsweek has a fantastic audio slideshow, featuring wonderful interviews with some of the store owners and the Murrays themselves.

Donating = Loving

Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner.





You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount.





Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.

Flourish: The Father of Positive Psychology Redefines Well-Being

By:

Back in the day, I had the pleasure of studying in a department graced by Dr. Martin Seligman, father of the thriving positive psychology movement — a potent antidote to the traditional “disease model” of psychology, which focuses on how to relieve suffering rather than how to amplify well-being. His seminal book, Authentic Happiness, was among the 7 essential books on the art and science of happiness, and today marks the release of his highly anticipated follow-up. Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being (public library) is rather radical departure from Seligman’s prior conception of happiness, which he now frames as overly simplistic and inferior to the higher ideal of lasting well-being.

Flourish is definitely not a self-help book, though it does offer insightful techniques to optimize yourself, your relationships and your business for well-being. If anything, it can read a bit wonky at times, as Seligman delves into fascinating empirical evidence culled from years of rigorous research. But I find this remarkably refreshing and stimulating amidst the sea of dumbed down psycho-fluff.

Relieving the states that make life miserable… has made building the states that make life worth living less of a priority. The time has finally arrived for a science that seeks to understand positive emotion, build strength and virtue, and provide guideposts for finding what Aristotle called the ‘good life.’” ~ Martin Seligman

Seligman identifies five endeavors crucial to human flourishing — positive emotion, engagement, good relationships, meaning and purpose in life, and accomplishment, cumulatively called PERMA — and examines each in detail, ultimately proposing that public policy have flourishing as its central goal.

The content itself — happiness, flow, meaning, love, gratitude, accomplishment, growth, better relationships — constitutes human flourishing. Learning that you can have more of these things is life changing. Glimpsing the vision of a flourishing human future is life changing.” ~ Martin Seligman

Seligman’s work over the years has taken him inside the brains of British lords, Australian school kids, billionaire philanthropists, Army generals, artists, educators, scientists and countless more of humanity’s most interesting and inspired specimens. The insights gleaned from these clinical cases are both sage and surprising, inviting you to look at the pillars of your own happiness with new eyes.

Though more closely related to his older work, this excellent 2004 TED talk is still a fantastic primer for the broader umbrella concept of positive psychology and thus very much representative of the fundamental thinking in Flourish.

Donating = Loving

Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner.





You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount:





Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.