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.

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

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:

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.