The science of Origami

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Origami is the ancient Japanese art of paper folding. Origami can be used to demonstrate a lot of mathematical ideas. The crease marks that are formed when a piece of paper is folded follow set rules. For example, for any origami model that may be pressed flat, at any point where creases meet, the number of valley and mountain folds always differ by two. Some constructions which are impossible using a compass and straight edge alone, such as trisecting an arbitrary angle, may be performed simply with origami.

What possible relevance could origami have to science and technology? Satellite solar panels need to be packed in a very compact manner to get them into space aboard a rocket. Parachutes for Mars landers are huge and also need to be packed in the most effective manner into a very tight space. Intelligent people realise that there is no need to reinvent the wheel. The knowledge of how to fold a large sheet into a small space has already been discovered.

Students will view the following video which explains an application of origami to folding solar panels around a satellite prior to launch. This is essential so that the satellite occupies as little space as possible. It costs a huge amount of money to launch a rocket so as many satellites need to be packed in as possible.


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