The Big Idea
Published: September 15, 2009
Art: Bryan Christie Design. Photos: Sohei Terui (plane). Sources: Shinji Suzuki, University of Tokyo (plane); Sham Dixit and Rod Hyde, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (telescope); Kaori Kuribayashi and Zhong You, University of Oxford (stent)
Fold Everything
Anything can be made with origami—from birds and bugs to
stents and space telescopes. It’s just a matter of math.
One sheet, no cuts: Even in its simplest form, origami, the art of paper folding, generates enchantment. Since the earliest known manual, A Thousand Cranes, was published in Japan in 1797, flocks of paper birds have alighted on countless windowsills. But these days, the ancient art is being revitalized by another form of expression: math. By describing their work mathematically and modeling it with computers, origamists have jumped from paper to metal and plastic and from toy to technology. Folded creations have flown in space; someday one may lodge in your artery.

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