Heroes

Have a look at how origami is revolutionizing the medical industry.

The art of paper-folding is making surgery more efficient and less traumatic. It could even save you money.

Staying in the hospital after surgery isn't exactly cheap.

There are over 50 million in-patient surgeries in the United States each year. They're not always easy on people, and they're certainly not cheap; according to the Kaiser Foundation, a day in a U.S. hospital costs, on average, over $2,200. That's the cost of a used car! That's 7.5 weeks of minimum-wage pay! That's 9,800 Chicken McNuggets!

No matter how you look at it, $2,200 in post-op costs at the hospital is some serious coin, so anything that helps patients heal faster after surgery is a huge benefit.


What if we told you one key to a speedier and cheaper recovery looks like this?

Image from Andreas Bauer/Wikimedia Commons.

Yep. That's origami — the craft of folding paper — and it's a big source of inspiration for engineers who are working to innovate on health care tools.

Of course, hospital-grade origami isn't exactly what your third-grader is learning in arts and crafts class:

All GIFs from Bringham Young University/YouTube.

These new origami-inspired tools are being developed by researchers at Utah's Brigham Young University. The beauty and genius of the designs lie in their simplicity; instead of creating an ever-increasing number of moving parts, researchers are putting that tendency in reverse, instead relying on folds and self-contained hinges to do the same job.

It's an entirely new way to think about medicine, and it could revolutionize robotic surgery.

Here's one example of an origami-inspired tool, which turns the classic origami chompers into miniature forceps.

An enlarged version of the origami-inspired forceps prototype.

The result is a super-small tool with the ability to do more delicate work than current technology allows.

In other words, the new tools will create smaller, more precise cuts, making for less traumatic and less invasive surgery.


Smaller cuts and less invasive surgeries mean patients will be out of the hospital and back on their feet in as little time as possible. After all, a lot of what you're recovering from after undergoing surgery is the giant hole that surgeons cut in your body to get to whatever needed fixing. A less invasive surgery means fewer things your body needs to heal.

"That's really probably the most important thing," says professor Larry Howell, one of the researchers on this project. The goal, he says, is to reach the point where surgery is so minimally invasive it doesn't even leave a scar. "And we're actually starting to be able to approach that size."

If you think these new forceps look clumsy, think again. These guys make sewing a suture look like poetry in motion:

One of the coolest things, Howell says, is seeing how art can inform science.

The limits of this technique seem bound only by designers' imaginations. Scientists can discover designs in art that wouldn't have been immediately obvious with traditional engineering. That has the potential to lead to a host of amazing inventions.

One idea the BYU researchers highlighted was foldable inserts that could one day be used to replace damaged cartilage in the spine:


Image used with permission from BYU.

The team, which has previously done work for NASA developing solar arrays and other equipment, used a similar approach when coming up with the ideas like the spinal insert — taking something big, making it as small as possible in order to get it where it needs to go, then unfurling it when it's needed.

Devices like this have the potential to de-complicate incredibly complicated surgeries. Already minimally invasive techniques like the ones being developed at BYU have allowed doctors to perform certain kinds of cardiac surgery as outpatient procedures.

This is the kind of work that's inspiring, useful, and — let's be honest — really cool-looking. Elegant solutions like these will hopefully turn future surgeries from something onerous into something awesome.

Check out BYU's video on how they're using origami to transform surgery below:

This article originally appeared on November 11, 2015


Remember those beloved Richard Scarry books from when you were a kid?

Like a lot of people, I grew up reading them. And now, I read them to my kids.

The best!

If that doesn't ring a bell, perhaps this character from the "Busytown" series will. Classic!

Image via

Scarry was an incredibly prolific children's author and illustrator. He created over 250 books during his career. His books were loved across the world — over 100 million were sold in many languages.

But here's something you may not have known about these classics: They've been slowly changing over the years.

Don't panic! They've been changing in a good way.

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Photo by Maxim Hopman on Unsplash

The Sam Vimes "Boots" Theory of Socioeconomic Unfairness explains one way the rich get richer.

Any time conversations about wealth and poverty come up, people inevitably start talking about boots.

The standard phrase that comes up is "pull yourself up by your bootstraps," which is usually shorthand for "work harder and don't ask for or expect help." (The fact that the phrase was originally used sarcastically because pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps is literally, physically impossible is rarely acknowledged, but c'est la vie.) The idea that people who build wealth do so because they individually work harder than poor people is baked into the American consciousness and wrapped up in the ideal of the American dream.

A different take on boots and building wealth, however, paints a more accurate picture of what it takes to get out of poverty.

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"Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1937) and actor Peter Dinklage.

On Tuesday, Upworthy reported that actor Peter Dinklage was unhappy with Disney’s decision to move forward with a live-action version of “Snow White and the Seven Drawfs” starring Rachel Zegler.

Dinklage praised Disney’s inclusive casting of the “West Side Story” actress, whose mother is of Colombian descent, but pointed out that, at the same time, the company was making a film that promotes damaging stereotypes about people with dwarfism.

"There's a lot of hypocrisy going on, I've gotta say, from being somebody who's a little bit unique," Dinklage told Marc Maron on his “WTF” podcast.

"Well, you know, it's really progressive to cast a—literally no offense to anybody, but I was a little taken aback by, they were very proud to cast a Latino actress as Snow White," Dinklage said, "but you're still telling the story of 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.' Take a step back and look at what you're doing there.”

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