Flat-pack physics

I had the great honour of being invited back to my alma mater at Keele University yesterday evening. Except this time I found myself on the other side of the lectern, speaking to the Keele Physics Centre about how the art of origami is having a profound impact on the way we build things in physics.

colourful-cranes_sml

With an audience of thirty or so academics, students and members of the public, we explored the origins and history of origami and the way in which the characteristics of different fold patterns can influence the properties of the structures that they create.

We looked, too, at how researchers around the world are using this knowledge to create extraordinary structures, from the very large to the incredibly small – and everything in between.

Using the example of the famous Miura-ori fold (below), we tried out some basic origami structures and played around with their various properties. And each member of the audience left with their very own origami pattern to try at home.

miura-ori

You can download one here. Just print it out and follow the instructions.

I had a most enjoyable evening and the audience really seemed to engage with the topic. It was also great to be back at Keele. Being on the ‘wrong’ side of the lectern, in a lecture theatre where I last sat as a student sixteen years ago, did take a bit of getting used to. But having the opportunity to share my enthusiasm for physics with such a great audience was a real pleasure.

Credit for origami crane image: Flickr/Girish Gopi (Creative Commons)

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