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.

Heroes
Alie Ward

Your dinner plate shouldn't shame you for eating off of it. But that's exactly what a set being sold at Macy's did.

The retailer has since removed the dinnerware from their concept shop, Story, after facing social media backlash for the "toxic message" they were sending.

The plates, made by Pourtions, have circles on them to indicate what a proper portion should look like, along with "helpful — and hilarious — visual cues" to keep people from "overindulging."

There are serval different styles, with one version labeling the largest portion as "mom jeans," the medium portion as "favorite jeans," and the smallest portion as "skinny jeans."

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In today's installment of the perils of being a woman, a 21-year-old woman shared her experience being "slut-shamed" by her nurse practitioner during a visit to urgent care for an STD check.

The woman recently had sex with someone she had only just met, and it was her first time hooking up with someone she had not "developed deep connections with."

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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

Cities

The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

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