This ancient Japanese art could improve everything from bridges to surgical gear.

Origami: It's more than just paper cranes!

My crane style defeats your monkey style. Photo by Doug/Flickr.


Did you know the principles of paper folding have been used to cram car airbags into tight spaces for years? And that's just the beginning.

All that material sits patiently inside your steering wheel until you need it. Photo by Scott E./Flickr.

The ancient Japanese art is actually inspiring the future of engineering.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Georgia Tech, and the University of Tokyo, for example, have been toying with a specific fold configuration they're calling the "zippered tube."

They say it could have some pretty amazing applications.

Whooooa. All GIFS via University of Illinois News Bureau/YouTube.

They start by folding a strip of paper into a sort of zig zag. Then, they glue two of these folded strips together to form a flexible-yet-powerful tube. From there, multiple tubes can be combined in all kinds of different combinations and geometric formations.

The result?

Firm, yet still flexible, Transformer-like structures capable of folding nearly flat for easy transportation or storage.

Here's a basic paper bridge holding up some hefty weights.

“A lot of (our research) was driven by space exploration, to be able to launch structures compactly and deploy them in space," says Evgueni Filipov, a graduate assistant on the project. "But we're starting to see how it has potential for a lot of different fields of engineering. You could prefabricate something in a factory, ship it compactly and deploy it on site."

But it's not just paper that can be origami'd into amazing new forms.

Imagine a steel surgical probe capable of collapsing in order to fit through a tiny incision, then expanding after insertion in order to perform its function.

Imagine shelters, bridges, housing, boats, and medical equipment that can be deployed at lightning speed during natural disasters.

Imagine an incredible, self-assembling robot. (Sound familiar?)

The possibilities are really endless.

From super cool, super convenient pop-up furniture...

This table is "more than meets the eye." Photo by Brett Jordan/Flickr.

... to solar panels that collapse and then expand when launched into space.

Starts small, becomes huge. Image from BYU/YouTube.

It may take some time before we see some of these techniques reach the mainstream.

But it's pretty exciting to think about a world where structures can be moved, modified, and stowed away with ease. And it's even cooler to think about a world where engineering is based as much in art as it is in science.

So, let's keep folding our way to a more beautiful, more functional world.

Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
True

The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

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Canva

As millions of Americans have raced to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, millions of others have held back. Vaccine hesitancy is nothing new, of course, especially with new vaccines, but the information people use to weigh their decisions matters greatly. When choices based on flat-out wrong information can literally kill people, it's vital that we fight disinformation every which way we can.

Researchers at the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a not-for-profit non-governmental organization dedicated to disrupting online hate and misinformation, and the group Anti-Vax Watch performed an analysis of social media posts that included false claims about the COVID-19 vaccines between February 1 and March 16, 2021. Of the disinformation content posted or shared more than 800,000 times, nearly two-thirds could be traced back to just 12 individuals. On Facebook alone, 73% of the false vaccine claims originated from those 12 people.

Dubbed the "Disinformation Dozen," these 12 anti-vaxxers have an outsized influence on social media. According to the CCDH, anti-vaccine accounts have a reach of more than 59 million people. And most of them have been spreading disinformation with impunity.

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Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
True

The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

Keep Reading Show less