“We lost,” said my brother despondently, after a gruelling few weeks of prepping for a science fair competition. “We lost to a team that did something about origami!” he added, indignantly.
At the time I commiserated with him; no matter how fun origami is, its applications aren’t as readily immediate as, say, an automated program to help stroke victims recover. So I dismissed the judges as insane, and consoled my brother on his loss.
And then I came across this article today morning, extolling the virtues of folding processes and origami. The thing is, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Some of the most interesting research done recently has been materials- and folding-based; think of the jellyfish that propels itself through water, powering itself by means of hydroelectric reactions. And then there’s the weird, angular shape that folds itself inside out to fly through the air.
Is Origami the Future of Tech? points out one really interesting fact: “folding” problems are incredibly important in a lot of biological research, because proteins — the building blocks for cells and hormones and everything crucial to the biological system — have to be precisely folded in order to be at all useful. The protein haemoglobin, for instance, if bent out of shape, can result in a disease called sickle cell anemia, in which patients’ bodies are less capable of using oxygen effectively because the misshapen protein can’t hold onto the oxygen.
Cool stuff. And potentially extraordinarily useful.