Calculating Change: Why Origami Is Critical to New Drugs: The Folded Universe

The Folded Universe

It's no surprise that Erik Demaine counts juggling among his hobbies. The 24-year-old--a home-schooled child prodigy who became M.I.T.'s youngest professor ever at age 20--picks off one arcane math problem after another. "I work on anything I consider fun," he says. "I'm a geek." Demaine, who has already co-written more than 100 papers, specializes in the computational theory of folded structures, most notably the mathematics underlying origami.

What does the Japanese art of paper folding have to do with higher math? Plenty. Demaine's origami work provides insights as readily into the problems of sheet-metal engineering as it does into those of...

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