The idea for publishing a book using a scientific text arose as spontaneously and accidentally as many scientific discoveries. While tossing a sheet of thin wrapping paper into the wastebasket, the sound of the crumpled sheet caught my attention. Retrieving the crumple, I thought I should save it for the mere pleasure of further crumpling. Then, reconsidering, I tossed it once more into the trash. But it was again recovered, this time to examine the texture of the paper that resulted from the crumpling. As I began to experiment with various papers, I came to appreciate the penetrating beauty and uniqueness of each crumple.
By chance, I was reading during this time a book about John Cage and his mechanism for using chance-determined selection in the creation of his art. What better act of spontaneity was there than the simple act of crumpling a sheet of paper? It was something that most people did on a daily basis but one that perhaps not many had stopped to consider as a special event. And, to my great surprise, I found that indeed it had been considered by a group of physicists at the University of Chicago. Crumpling a Thin Sheet was their response to the fascination of the crumple. This book is my own response to their work and an homage to John Cage, who continues to illuminate me about the excitement and the wonder of indeterminacy and circumstances interpenetrating art.
Crumpling a Thin Sheet was originally published electronically on arXiv.org on 7 November 2001 and was reprinted as a book with the permission of the authors.
© 2023 Rutherford Witthus