Sunday, November 11, 2007

Origami Turtles by the Dozen

My latest origami project, soon after folding the Origami Crabs, is folding turtles -- twelve turtles, in fact. They are from the same John Montroll book that has the crab design. Here's the first four turtles that I folded:

Some time ago, I folded a bunch of these turtles for a grade-school class taught by a daughter-in-law. The kids had fun painting the turtles. This time, the turtles are going into shoeboxes that my church is collecting and sending to Samaritan's Purse for their Operation Christmas Child program. My wife and daughter figured that it would be more economical (and fun) to buy inexpensive children's toys by the dozen, and fill a dozen shoeboxes. My contribution was to fold a dozen origami turtles. Here's some of the boxes as they were being packed:

Monday, November 05, 2007

More about the Origami Crabs

Here's some more about my previous post Origami Emergency. If you haven't read it, you'll need to read it first for the following to make any sense.

The origami crabs have arrived safely, after a delay because the British customs office was closed for the weekend. Which reminds me: When I started telling a friend what I was doing, he asked, "What is origami?" So when I was filling out the export form to describe what I was exporting to the UK, I first wrote "two origami crabs", and then added "(paper, folded)" in case the export agent might think that origami is a species of crab.

I didn't quote from my email responding to Dave McKean, because I wanted to keep the story short and not boring to non-folders. But since many folders are reading this blog, I'll quote most of it here:

I have helped people with origami projects before, but not with such a time constraint! I think I can do it, though, but the requirement for white is a small concern, which I will explain.

Folding an object with many appendages, such as a crab, from a single square of paper without cutting is a complex process with many folds (424 steps for John Montroll's crab), which builds up many layers. To prevent bulkyness and a tendancy to unfold and look fluffy, such models need to be folded from a thin foil/paper composite. (On the Origami Database web page where you saw my model in gold foil/paper, there is a photo of a crab done in thin paper, which is not as crisp.) The malleability of soft metal and crispness of the paper combine for a good result.

I don't have access to white foil/paper, but the model can folded so that the white paper 'back' can be the 'front', and the foil side in back. I have 12 3/4 inch squares of silver foil/paper that I can use. (The foil side is actually a light-grey/silver speckle pattern.) My guess is that the model will be about 3 or 4 inches wide.

If you carefully examine the photo of the crab that I folded, you will see that a little white shows at edges at the legs. When I reverse the foil/paper, a little grey/silver will show in these places. From my experience in photographing origami, I predict that depending on the angle of the light, these edges will either look like grey shadow or silver highlights. I hope that this will be satisfactory. (You can daub these edges with thin white paint, if you prefer. I can include some extra paper to experiment with.)

If I learn anything more, I'll post it here. And if you find something, post a comment here. Details are often found in blog comments.

Another Update...

Thursday, November 01, 2007


That was the title of an email that I received recently: ORIGAMI EMERGENCY!!!! It read:

Dear Mr. Clark.

My name is Dave McKean, and I'm directing a feature film starting this weekend called Luna. A scene in the film requires an origami crab made from white paper. This little detail has been left to the last minute to source, and has proven to be a big problem. I found a beautiful paper crab on a website called ORIGAMI DATABASE which I believe was folded by yourself from a diagram by John Montroll. From there I found your blog and website, with what I hope is a correct email address for you. So, the reason for this emergency email; would you be willing to make me a couple of white paper crabs to use in the film and ship them to me in the UK straight away. I can pay you a small fee out of our props budget for your time, credit you as the model maker in the end credits, and give you a fedex number to use.

I hope you will be able to help us out,
Yours sincerely,
Dave McKean

I have about two dozen origami books in my library, and I made an index of the origami designs in these books to help me find origami designs. When I discovered the Origami Database website, I contributed my index to them, because it is built by volunteers. I also had many photographs of origami models that I had folded, which I also contributed. That is how Dave McKean found me.

That email came on Tuesday, and he wanted it for the 'shoot' on the next weekend. I agreed, and folded these, which have been FedEx'ed to the UK on Thursday:

It took me four hours to fold each crab, turning a 12 and 3/4 inch square of paper into a 3-inch by 4-inch crab. One crab will be a stand-in for the other. No, I don't think a crab will show up for work drunk, but somebody might accidently step on one.

Dave McKean is a artist that has made many CD covers, has illustrated children's books by his friend author Neil Gaiman, and more recently has been directing movies. I asked him if his new movie Luna was an English remake of the Italian movie La Luna by Bernardo Berttolucci, and he said:

Luna is not a remake of La Luna, a film I really liked being a Bertolucci fan.It is an original story, and there will be a website and IMDB page up soon. It is a low budget independent feature funded here in the UK. It is a contemporary drama, with a strange dream-like fantasy sequence running through it.

He then described how the origami crab is featured at the end of the film. I don't think I should repeat what he said, because maybe it will reveal too much about the ending of the story, but I guess it's OK to say that something magical happens to the crab.

So I'll be looking for the Luna web site and the listing on And it will be fun to see my origami featured in a movie!

read more about it..

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Reductio ad Absurdum

Reductio ad absurdum (Latin for reduction to absurdity) is a method of argument that refutes a proposition by showing that it implies an absurdity, or proves a proposition by showing that its negation implies an absurdity. This method of argument can be used to cast doubt on the Big Bang theory and on the evolutionary theory of origins.

The Big Bang theory has a fundamental problem arising from its assertion that extremely compact energy expanded and cooled, converting to matter. We know from experimental physics that energy can be converted to matter and vice versa; but whenever energy is converted to ordinary matter, an equal amount is converted to anti-matter. (See my blog on the unity of matter, energy, space, and time.)

Simply put, antimatter is a 'mirror-image' form of matter. For example, a positron is the antiparticle or the antimatter counterpart of the electron. The electron has negative charge, but the positron has positive charge.

The antiparticles are a minority, and in a short time collide with ordinary matter, converting back to energy. For example, a positron will collide with an electron, converting to gamma rays (electromagnetic energy).

So the Big Bang theory implies that half the universe should be antimatter; but we observe that practically 100% of the universe is ordinary matter, and that antimatter exists only for fleeting moments.

The evolutionary theory of origins has an analogous problem. Most organic molecules (the building-blocks of living things) are chiral: that is, having an asymmetry such as gloves, shoes, and screws, which have either a left-handed or right-handed form. In the laboratory, scientists can make both left-handed and right-handed forms of any sugar or amino acid molecule. But plants and animals nearly always use right-handed sugars and left-handed amino acids. Mirror-image life ought to function just as well. But why this 'single-minded', arbitrary choice if the origin of life was accidental? Why don't we observe both forms of life?

Of course, life is more than organic molecules, just as a LegoRobot is more than a pile of Lego parts. To be functional, the organic molecules need to be organized according to some design, which is generally encoded in DNA, the universal language for expressing the design information. (See my previous blog post.)

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Is Encoded Information an Essential Part of the Universe?

In a previous blog entitled "All Things", I discussed how the universe is made of the four essentials:

matter — energy — space — time

-- and how, according to the laws of physics, as best we know them, none of these can exist without the others. Now I would like to extend the discussion by talking about information.

Information is made of none of these. Information can be represented, or encoded, by arrangements of matter (ink on paper, magnetic patterns in a disk, etc.) that lie motionless in space, unchanging in time. Or information can be encoded by patterns of energy (sound, radio waves, etc.) that move through space, changing in time. Matter and energy are only containers and vehicles to store and transmit information within space-time.

When you write your thoughts in your diary, the ink and paper do not make your thoughts; they simply 'record' them: that is, they hold what you have recorded. When you record an experience, the information comes from external sources, but is filtered by your perceptions. When you record a question that you wish to have answered, or record an ambition for the future, the source of the information is more internal, originating from who you are.

Scientists have discovered much about the laws of physics that mathematically describe the behavior of matter, energy, space, and time, although there are a few things they are still hoping to discover. And in modern times, scientists have discovered laws that govern the storage and transmission of information, the application of which has revolutionized our present "information age" of computers and communication devices. So it seems that we should add information to the list of essentials that the universe is made of:

matter — energy — space — time -- information

Or should we? Recall that we argued that matter, energy, space, and time belonged together because there are "inexorably, inextricably joined". We said that "energy and mass (matter) are interchangeable" and that "time and space are different sides of the same fabric" and that matter and energy were like "wrinkles or knots in the fabric of space-time". That is, the laws of physics that we observe does not allow for an empty space-time that is not filled with matter, and that does not have energy. But do these same laws of physics allow for a universe of matter, energy, space, and time that has no information?

To be clear, the information that we are discussing is encoded information, not physical information. For example, if you print this web page, you will get a piece of paper with a certain pattern of ink on it. You can measure the height, width, thickness, and weight of the paper and get physical information about the paper. Someone that does not know English can count the words and letters, and measure the height of the letters, getting more physical information. But only by reading and understanding the English can they get the encoded information that was encoded one way in the computer, then encoded another way on the paper.

We can splatter some ink on the paper, also producing a pattern of ink on it. But there will only be physical information but no encoded information.

You may have heard stories of a crime scene where a pattern of splattered blood is analyzed by a forensic scientist, who tries to determine something about the events that caused the blood to splatter. His analysis relies on the laws of physics that govern how drops travel through the air, adhere to a surface, or bounce, skid, roll, or run on the surface, or how larger drops can break into smaller ones.

In the case of the printed page, the laws of physics can only explain the general process by which the printer works, but cannot explain the particular pattern that encodes a particular message. The science of information can explain how the pattern of keystrokes on my keyboard was encoded into bit patterns entering my computer, stored there, sent to a web server computer, and ultimately sent to your computer and then to your printer. But it can't explain what happened in my head to make my fingers do what they did to the keyboard.

Now that we have clarified the difference between encoded information and physical information, we can state (and answer) our question more clearly:

Do these same laws of physics allow for a universe of matter, energy, space, and time that has no encoded information? The answer is YES!

There is no physical law that requires encoded information to exist. And what do we observe? We observe encoded information only where there is life, and there is no physical law that requires life to exist. The universe can be full of stars and inert, lifeless planets such as we have observed elsewhere, and no physical laws would be broken.

Where there is life, we observe encoded information. First, we see animals (as well as people) communicating. Birds will make one sound that means "This territory is mine! Stay out!" And another sound that means "Watch out! Danger is close." For example, chickadees have a song that sounds like "chick-a-dee-dee-dee-dee!" Ornithologists have discovered that the number of dee's is an indication of the perceived danger level. Honeybees perform a dance on the honeycomb that reports to other bees the direction and distance from the hive to a source of nectar. Many animals use pheremones (specialized scents) to convey information to one another. Even plants use chemical communication.

This information is encoded, because there is a fundamental difference between the action of chasing another bird out of the claimed territory and a message that threatens this action in the future when needed. There is a fundamental difference between fleeing from danger or ducking out of sight, and warning another bird that one of those actions may be necessary.

We also observe encoded information in the communication of one part of a living body to another part of the same body. An obvious example is the communication within the nervous system.

There is also encoded information in the DNA and RNA of living things. This is stored information, which is communicated in three ways: (1) the construction of proteins, etc. -- ultimately, the body -- from the 'stored blueprints' of the DNA repository, (2) the replication of the information into new cells, and (3) the replication of the information (generally combining with another DNA source) to produce progeny.

There is an interesting parallel between the operation of data within a computer and the operation of DNA information within the 'hardware' of a living organism. But that is too much to explain here -- this is the subject of later blogs:
"The Digital Control of Life"
"The First Digitally-Controlled Designs".

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Fairness Doctrine?   Who are They Kidding?

If you recognize that the so-called ‘Fairness’ Doctrine isn’t fair, then you don’t need to read this. But if you think the ‘Fairness’ Doctrine is fair, then you need a lesson in logic -- read on if you are open-minded.

Basically, the ‘Fairness’ Doctrine seeks to enforce equal time for conservative and liberal views on American radio stations. But why do that and not also enforce equal time on cable and broadcast TV, equal print space in newspapers, etc.? If we really need to enforce an equal voice for conservative and liberal views, it would be ‘fair’ to do it equally for all outlets. But the liberals don’t want that, because then they would lose their advantage in the TV and newspaper outlets. Is a 'fairness' only in an area that gives an advantage to the liberals fair?

Some of the misunderstanding of the ‘Fairness’ Doctrine relates to a common misunderstanding of the freedom of speech. The free communication of ideas involves listening as well as speaking, and thus involves the freedom of listening (or not listening) to any one, as well as the freedom of speaking. For an example, even though people are free to say stupid things, the rest of us are free not to listen to stupid speeches. The natural result, fortunately, is that stupid people don’t get equal time. You can substitute other words such as ‘ranting’ instead of ‘stupid’, and the logic works the same. In an unregulated media that is funded by advertising, advertisers pay for listeners, so programs with few listeners will fail financially. The speakers on these failing programs may not be stupid or ranting, but something is causing potential listeners to tune out, which is freedom at work.

Another part of the issue is: why should conservative and liberal views get equal time? Why not conservative, centrist, and liberal getting equal thirds? Why not far right, right, centrist, left, and far left? Why not Democrat and Republican? Why not pro-life and pro-choice? Pro-amnesty and anti-amnesty? Who should decide the categories? Just to be sure we are really fair, shouldn’t we include all categories, including cat-lovers and dog-lovers? (For a bonus, all the government regulators needed to make this system work will reduce the jobless rate.) Imagine all the paperwork -- does that sound like freedom of speech to you?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I Dreamed I Met My Guardian Angel

I had a dream that I arrived in heaven and was escorted to my new living quarters -- my "mansion". I was introduced to my guardian angel, who explained to me that he would now be my personal servant -- valet, housekeeper, etc.

All kinds of questions began to flood my mind. "Does this mean that my house will get dirty and need cleaning?" I asked.

"No, there is never any dirt or dust in the houses; only dirt in the gardens where the flowers grow", he explained. "But you might, for example, not return books to their proper places in your library. I will make sure that the books are filed correctly, and will help you find books in your library."

"Wow! My house is furnished with a library!" I thought, hoping that he didn't notice the big grin that broke out across my face.

"The same goes for keeping your personal wardrobe in order", he continued.

"We don't all wear white robes?" I asked.

"Only on special occasions", he replied. "God loves variety, so He not only has made individual human bodies different -- both before and after resurrection -- but He also allows people to wear a variety of clothing colors and styles."

"Since you were my guardian angel," I began, changing the subject, "you must recall times in my life when.."

"When you nearly got into trouble", he said, laughing. "Yes, I have lots of stories about your life on earth. And I also have lots of questions. I don't understand about forgiveness and grace, for example. We angels -- I mean, the ones that sinned -- didn't get forgiveness. But we will have lots of time to talk."

I looked into his friendly face, and somehow I sensed a child-like innocence. Even a pet-dog innocence, I thought, though more intelligent and conversant than a dog. My heart suddenly discovered a love for this wonderful creature that God had created before I was born. And I began to realize that through my salvation and sanctification experience, God had taught me lessons about things that baffled this angel.

Impulsively, I reached out and hugged him, and told him that I loved him. He reacted with great surprise, even shock, it seemed.

"You love me?"

"Yes, God loves you, and He has given me a love for you, and has given me to you even as He has given you to me, so that He can love you through me." As I spoke these words, I realized that God had given them to me through His Spirit.

"Show me the library" I asked. He led me down a hallway, but before we got to the library, I passed another room that caught my attention. "What's this?" I asked.

"That's the music room." As we walked in, I could see many kinds of musical instruments arranged neatly on one side of the room.

"But I don't play any musical instruments."

"You didn't." He corrected my tense. "But you will. Haven't you always wished you could play a musical instrument?"

I picked up a stringed instrument, quite unlike anything I had ever seen before, yet it seemed simple in design. I plucked the strings, and found that I could remember the tone of each string. My angel friend started singing a song of praise that somehow seemed both new and familiar. A harmony for his song began to form in my mind, and I began to pluck the strings, discovering that my fingers were finding the strings that matched the notes in my head. "This is amazing!" I exclaimed, interrupting the song. "I really can play this thing!"

"You are surprised?" He laughed with joy at my obvious delight. "Who taught the birds to sing? And who taught the birds to fly?"

"You are so right. I remember that when I first got my resurrection body that I just started flying up towards Jesus, and it seemed as natural as walking."

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

"Literary Meme"

A friend passed on this concept that was titled "Literary Meme", which she got from This is how it works:

1. grab the book closest to you
2. open it to page 161
3. find the fifth full sentence
4. post the text of the sentence to your blog
5. don't search around for the coolest book you have, use the one that is really next to you.

My daughter Susan's new novel, "And the Violin Cried", wasn't the closest book to me, but it was the first book that came to mind, so I was curious as to what the sentence would be:

Samantha’s father pounded the last nail into the manger, while Angelica Nelson toddled over toolboxes and through sawdust to donate her baby doll to the cause.

That was from chapter 34, "Send Aaron!", describing Pinedale Bible Church's preparations for a Christmas production.

The nearest book other than my Bible was an anthology called "The Intellectuals Speak Out About God", and the sentence is:

What, for example, the ontological argument basically says is that if you understand what is meant by "God" and at the same time fail to see the necessity of the reality of that Being, then you are not really talking about God but about something else.

This was from chapter 11, "The Rationality of Belief in God", in a section where Professor John E. Smith attempts to answer the question "How best can the theistic point of view be presented to modern man?"

The reason why this book is so close by is that the reading is so deep that I can only read small portions at a time. But I don't want to give up on the book, so I keep it near as a reminder to read more later.

Equally close was my NKJ Bible, and the sentence is:

It is perversion.

That was from Leviticus 18, where God proscribes homosexuality and bestiality. A reminder that belief in God, and necessarily, acceptance of His absolute proclamations, is an inconvenience to those who would rather define morality on their own terms.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Better Mouse Trap

When I recall my youth, I remember a number of activities that foretold my career as an engineer, including the time that I tried to make a better mouse trap.

We sometimes had mice (I remember Mom catching one with a broom and a dustpan), so we also had mousetraps. I noticed that mice could sometimes nibble the cheese gently enough to avoid getting caught, so I concluded that the triggering lever wasn’t sensitive enough. The big strong lever for catching the mouse was held by a second lever, which in turn was held by a third triggering lever that held the cheese.

I figured out that the purpose of the second lever was to reduce the force at the triggering lever. But the problem was that the triggering force was not reduced enough. So I built a mouse trap with more levers. As best as I can recall, the improved design was something like this:

A triggering lever made of a length of horse-hair held a stouter lever made of a broom-straw, which held a lever made of a tooth-pick, which held a lever made of a Popsicle stick, which held the strong capturing lever. The horse-hair didn’t need to hold the cheese, because the mouse’s whiskers would spring the trap if he just got close enough to sniff the cheese.

To test the trap, I set it up on the stairs that went from the kitchen up to the boys’ bedroom. (My three brothers and I shared one big bedroom.)

Now you must understand that one could not tip-toe up these stairs without most of the steps creaking. (This was advantageous to us boys when our parents could hear mischievous noise coming from the bedroom, and one of them tried to sneak up the stairs to find out who was doing what. But that’s another story.) But actually you could sneak up the stairs noiselessly if you knew the secret sequence: step over the first three steps, landing on the far left side of the fourth step, then go to the far right of the sixth step. etc.

Because the trap was essentially a vibration sensor, I thought that by setting it up near the top of the stairs, one of my brothers would walk up the stairs, would creak a step near the trap, and then be surprised by the trap snapping.

So I set up the mouse trap on the stairs – easy to say, but tedious to do. First, pull back the big spring lever, then get the Popsicle stick to hold it down, then set the tooth-pick to hold the Popsicle stick, then set the broom-straw to hold the tooth-pick, then set the horse-hair to hold the broom-straw. The process got more and more delicate.

That done, I next had to retreat, navigating the secret sequence in reverse. I tip-toed down nearly to the bottom when I miscalculated, a step creaked, and ten steps above me, the trap snapped shut.

That was the end of the experiment. I concluded that the trap was a bit too sensitive.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Nine-Bite Sandwich

The Nine-Bite Sandwich was one of my early, unpatented inventions, before I entered the field of electrical engineering. It may have had its origins in some earlier, secret culinary experiments conducted in the kitchen when nobody else, especially not my mother, was in the house. Those experiments turned out rather badly — so distasteful, in fact, that I'd rather not remind myself any further about them. The Nine-Bite Sandwich, however, was successful enough that I shared it with the rest of the family. As a father, I have explained it to my children, and now I document it for further generations.

The Nine-Bite Sandwich is a Construction process followed by an Eating process, which I will explain with patent-style drawings. Since it is not patented
, I hereby put it into the Public Domain.


The ingredients are two slices of bread and four different spreads of your choice. For the bread, use sandwich bread — the real kind, not that so-called 'Wonder bread' ("I wonder why they call it bread", I always say) that sticks to your gums and palate. For the spreads, I will illustrate with peanut butter (PB), margarine (M), blueberry jam (BB) and strawberry preserves (SB); but you can choose your own.

The Construction Process

As shown in Figure 1, lay the slices of bread (S1 and S2) down in a symmetrical position. This is needed so that the slices will fit neatly when one slice is turned over onto the other slice.

Figure 1

As shown in Figure 2, spread margarine (M) on the left half of slice S1, and spread peanut butter (PB) on the right half of slice S1. Also, spread blueberry jam (BB) on the top half of slice S2, and spread strawberry preserves (SB) on the bottom half of slice S2.

Figure 2

As shown in Figure 3, turn slice S1 (the one on the left) onto slice S2. Notice that this instantly creates four flavor combinations as shown.

Figure 3
The Eating Process

As shown in Figure 4, take the first four bites from the corners of the sandwich as shown. You can peek first, to anticipate each flavor combination, or you can surprise yourself by flipping or rotating the sandwich a few times first.

Figure 4

As shown in Figure 5, take the next four bites from the 'arms' of the cross shape left by the first four bites. Notice that these bites are three-flavor combinations — a more complex flavor experience.

Figure 5
The remaining center is the last, ninth bite. It combines the flavors of all four spreads. This sandwich is fun to make and eat because each bite is a different flavor combination. Yet the sandwich is really quite easy to make.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Susan's Novel to be Published Soon

I haven't been posting for a while, because my computer died, and I lost my Internet connection. Now I'm back.

The big news around here is that my daughter Susan has found a publisher (Publish America) for her novel (And the Violin Cried). It will be published by late February or March. You can read reviews and articles about it, and get up-to-date news about book signings, etc. at

I've transitioned from being her nit-picking editor to being her Publish America Publicity Agent (PA PA). (ha ha) So I set up and maintain web sites, design and print business cards and bookmarks for her. I have also done photography for her, including photos of three young friends who posed as three of the characters in the novel.

Susan, who has training in graphic design, has designed a book cover for her novel which uses these three photos. The publisher may use her cover design as is, or may modify it, or do something different (no promises). But when we saw the page proofs, we were happy to see that the photos were incorporated into the book. Various chapters tell the story from the point of view of different characters; and each photo appears at the beginning of the chapter that first takes that character's point of view. We are taking that as a sign that the publisher likes Susan's cover design as well.

We decided that the title page should feature a picture of a violin, so we found a violin shop and asked if we could take a photo of a violin. They were quite gracious in spite of the fact that they were quite busy. One wall was covered with hundreds of violins. We explained that her novel featured a Schweitzer violin that survived the Holocaust, and the lady took a violin from the wall, and handing it to me, said "This one's a Schweitzer."

"Really?", I said, and she explained that it was actually a replica. But the way it was finished, it looked like an old violin that was re-varnished.