origami architecture

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Figuring Out How to Fold Solar Panels, Airplane Wings

The art of paper-folding called origami can produce complex shapes that are both beautiful and useful. It is being used to understand how DNA works, to make powerful microscopes out of paper, and to improve architecture and medicine

But if you want to convert something flat into another shape to reduce its size for packing and shipping, origami folds need to get even more complex for thicker objects. How, for instance, would you fold a space mirror for delivery into orbit or a new generation of retracting roofs, shape-shifting airplane wings or solar panels?

The answer, according to researchers at Oxford and China’s Tianjin University, is that you need to add hinges, extra material and crease offsets to produce origami’s smart folds in thick objects. Learn more and see more images below.

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Elegant Chairs Pop-Up Card Tutorial. Imagine with watercolor all over the page!

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Origami Folds In Genes Make Cells What They Are

by Michael Keller

New research has shed light on how the same DNA blueprint can lead to structures as different as neurons and red blood cells.

Scientists from the Baylor College of Medicine and Rice and Harvard universities have created a highly detailed 3-D map of the human genome by analyzing billions of DNA fragments. Their work uncovers how the 3 billion DNA units that make up our genetic code contort, link and interact to create the genome’s physical structure.

This folded origami-like architecture shrinks down our DNA, which would stretch 6.5 feet long into a straight line, to fit inside a nucleus that measures less than 0.00024 of an inch across. It turns out that the folding itself determines whether certain genes are turned on or off, which leads to the production of different proteins in different types of cells.

“More and more, we’re realizing that folding is regulation,” said Suhas Rao, a researcher at Baylor’s Center for Genome Architecture who contributed to the work. “When you see genes turn on or off, what lies behind that is a change in folding. It’s a different way of thinking about how cells work.” (see video below.)

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