I just finished a wonderful profile of physicist turned professional origami artist Robert Lang. (It appeared as the "The Origami Lab" by Susan Orlean in the February 19, 2007 issue of The New Yorker.)
Shown at left is Lang's origami piece called "Mt. Diablo Spider," made from one uncut 7" square piece of paper. Amazing. The crease and fold pattern Lang meticulously designed to make this shape is shown below.
Lang has a master's in electrical engineering from Stanford and a Ph.D. from Caltech in applied physics, and also holds 80 patents. But seven years ago, he left his profession to devote himself full-time to his life long passion, origami.
To view some of Lang's origami art constructions, go to his website. Many of these are available for sale. There is also a discussion about the science and mathematics involved in origami.
I'm a big advocate of taking expertise from one field and applying it to another. On this score, Lang does not disappoint; he still does some part-time consulting for industry. But Lang's current assignments involve "folding" and packaging rather than physics.
According to Orlean, "One medical manufacturer hired him to figure out how to fold a heart implant — a mesh heart support system for people with congestive heart failure — so that it was compact enough to be implanted via a skinny tube but, when released from the tube, would unfurl properly around the heart." A recent project had Lang working on a similar problem: compactly folding a telescope with a 100 meter diameter lens into a shape small enough so that it could be packed into a rocket and sent into space.
Question: Think of one of your hobbies or side interests. What skills or knowledge from it can you apply to a current problem? What do you discover?