On a cool summer night, you might see fireflies glow. What you may not know is that fireflies are key to discovering new drugs too.  Fireflies glow through a process called bioluminescence. In it, there are molecules that combine with energy and give off the green glow. Scientists are using those molecules and attaching them to cells to learn more about how these cells work. Following the glowing molecule is like watching a person in a darkly-lit room who has a glow stick. You know exactly where they are. The same goes for the part of the cell that has the glowing firefly molecule attached to it.

Now, fireflies are not the only species that glow.  There are worms that glow along with the anglerfish, which you’ve seen in major movies. There are also deep-sea shrimp that glow. Out of all those organisms, the deep-sea shrimp has the most disturbing use of bioluminescence.  When shrimps feel threatened by a predator, they vomits a glowing goo from their mouth to scare them off. That is a very effective means of bioluminescence!

All in all, bioluminescence is one of the tools that animals have.  Nature provides some excellent ways to see things in the dark, which scientists borrow for discoveries. As you can see, the light from fireflies is a small beacon during the summer, but also for the discovery of new medicines.

 

There’s no papering over the impact of origami in technology.

What do pizza boxes, paper bags, and fancy napkins have in common? Well, you might have guessed it — origami.

Origami, which means “paper folding,” is everywhere. While some of the oldest pieces of origami have been found in ancient China and origami’s deepest roots are in ancient Japan, origami makes an impact in today’s technology too.

One of the most important uses of origami today is in airbags. Airbags are doughnut-shape nylon bags that are deployed in a fraction of a second during a car collision. Airbags lie flat inside of the steering wheel. So, engineers needed to find the way to fold an airbag so it will store flat and expand out quickly. They consulted origami artist Robert Lang for the folding recipes. He found the origami folds for making a box with lots of corners was the solution that was needed.

Download some cool origami structures from this website (Used with permission)

http://www.origamiusa.org/diagrams

Origami doesn’t stop there. The National Science Foundation, one of the government’s largest funding sources for research, has funded 13 grants last year to use origami in industry. Origami is being applied to foldable forceps to expanding solar panels to deployable antennas.

Interestingly, other cultures also have a history of folded paper. There are elaborate folded patterns in Europe and folded paper in Mesoamerica going back over a thousand years.

Today, schools are using origami in STEAM education to improve students’ skills. Origami has been found to increase thinking skills, improve geometry learning, and enhance problem solving.

Origami is used in nature. Bugs fold wings with origami patterns; leaf buds have patterns that are similar to Japanese fans. Even molecules are arranged like origami structures.

So, get a piece of paper out and make some folds. Be connected by using this technique that has made impact in so many ways and for so long.

 

Here are some fun books on origami (Affiliate Links):

Robert Lang’s Complete Book of Origami (featured in the podcast)

Star Wars Origami 

Origami Fun Kit for Beginners