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A Fold Apart: Origamist Robert Lang’s Incredible Paper Creations

NASA physicist Robert Lang literally shaped how we see the stars with his dexterous hands. How, you might ask? Paper.

Lang’s origami skills fold reality in new ways, and his application of space program-level physics to the traditional Japanese art form have pushed both disciplines in new and groundbreaking directions.

For Lang, origami has been a lifelong passion and pursuit, so even while he was doing research on lasers for NASA, he was also always sure to find time to push the limits of his artistic endeavor. Here, we reach the point where the art and science blur. Lang’s origami designs have led to real-life folding patterns that fit satellite dishes and receiving arrays into cylindrical NASA rockets and made airbags in some car designs more compact, practical and safe.

Lang had a sterling scientific career with over 46 patents to his name, but he took a sharp turn: He quit his job as one of NASA’s leading researchers in 2001 to pursue his origami artistry full-time.

Now, Lang pushes (and creases, folds, shapes, crafts and creates) the envelope with mind-blowing origami that take simple swans, frogs and other classic nature-inspired designs and makes them impossibly complex. The ingenuity and complicacy of his designs—some of which actually have thousands of individual folds—all serve a purpose in his pursuit to fuse mathematical methods within the ancient art and bring something new to life.


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