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Arts & Culture

NOVA: The Origami Revolution

Tomohiro Tachi, assistant professor, Department of General Systems Studies, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Tokyo, with origami.
Courtesy of WGBH
Tomohiro Tachi, assistant professor, Department of General Systems Studies, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Tokyo, with origami.

Airs Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Discover how the art of origami is sparking a scientific revolution and unlocking nature’s secrets.

The centuries-old tradition of folding two-dimensional paper into three-dimensional shapes is inspiring a scientific revolution. The rules of folding are at the heart of many natural phenomena, from how leaves blossom to how beetles fly.

Example of contemporary origami at sixth OSME Convention Tokyo, Japan 2014.
Courtesy of WGBH
Example of contemporary origami at sixth OSME Convention Tokyo, Japan 2014.

But now, engineers and designers are applying its principles to reshape the world around us… and even within us, designing new drugs, micro-robots, and future space missions.

Solar array prototype developed by Larry Howell at the Compliant Mechanisms Research Lab, Brigham & Young University, Provo, Utah.
Courtesy of WGBH
Solar array prototype developed by Larry Howell at the Compliant Mechanisms Research Lab, Brigham & Young University, Provo, Utah.

With this burgeoning field of origami-inspired-design, the questions is: can the mathematics of origami be boiled down to one elegant algorithm – a fail-proof guidebook to make any object out of a flat surface, just by folding? And if so, what would that mean for the future of design?

Explore the high-tech future of this age-old art as NOVA unfolds "The Origami Revolution."

Brian Trease's hands unfolding solar panels model (NASA project).
Courtesy of WGBH
Brian Trease's hands unfolding solar panels model (NASA project).

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