Origami – A Practical Science As Well As a Beautiful Art

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Origami – A Practical Science As Well As a Beautiful Art

Who would’ve thought that origami, the beautiful art of folding, is also a branch of mathematics with many real world applications? If you’re curious about how origami can help people explore space or save lives in car crashes, read on.

 

An ancient art 

The ancient art of origami is popular all over the world.  It consists of using a series of folding techniques to transform a flat sheet of paper into one of many possible designs. Depending on the folder’s skills and interests, the designs that are created may be simple or intricate. Paper folders have created cranes, flapping birds, jumping frogs, elephants, many-legged centipedes and even human figures with a full complement of fingers!

 

Mathematical puzzles 

Mathematicians study the underlying laws of origami since folding is, in essence, a geometry problem. Their discoveries are applicable to every day problems because many objects in nature are essentially flat things that have been folded into a three-dimensional form. Leaves, insect’s wings, mountain ranges, proteins and DNA are all created by folding.

 

Solutions to questions in science and technology 

The following technological advances have been developed from insights obtained through origami folding and the associated mathematics:

 

Space

  • the deployment of large solar panel arrays for space satellites through the use of the Miura map fold
  • the development of a telescope for the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory which can be shipped into space in its folded form and then unfolded without suffering any permanent marks or creases

 

Cars

  • the design of better crumpling car bumpers
  • verifying airbags in cars through the use of a simulation and without any need for crash cars

 

Medicine

  • the development of a flexible low cost stent which may be used to enlarge clogged arteries and veins

 

Just plain cool

  • the creation of a fabric of densely layered nanotubes that can generate power from body heat.

 

Current research 

Research into the laws of origami is ongoing today. For example, molecular biologists and pharmaceutical companies are very interested in solving the puzzle of how proteins fold and unfold. Answering this question could radically speed up the time that it takes to design specialized proteins that can be used as drugs. This could have major consequences since Alzheimer’s, mad cow and various cancers are thought to be caused by protein misfolding.

 

Furthermore, a better understanding of how materials and molecules drape, flex, wrinkle and crease may provide significant benefits in the field of manufacturing. Makers of medical equipment and consumer electronics could use folding to streamline their manufacturing processes. Fabrication by folding may prove to be much faster, cheaper and less energy intensive than traditional fabrication methods. It also has the advantage that it can work on extremely small scales.

 

Origami is a beautiful art form whose principles can be used to help solve real world problems.

 

If you are interested in trying your hand at origami then you may want to consult one of the following links to get you started:

 

For more information on origami related math, science and technology, visit:

http://www.langorigami.com/science/math/math.php .