Studying these cells could lead to new treatments for diseases ranging from gastrointestinal disease to diabetes.
At a convention of the British Origami Society in the spring of 2003, origami expert David Brill attempted to create the "longest origami train ever," according to the BOS website. OrigaMIT decided it would be fun to contribute a few cars to this worldwide effort. Because the cars were designed to lie flat in an envelope and then pop up when opened, entries could be sent from all over the globe.
Brill achieved his dream, but the Guinness Book of World Records was, sadly, not sufficiently impressed. A few weeks after OrigaMIT contributed their cards, they received what club president Wes A. Watters called a "hysterically funny" rejection letter from Guinness.
"While we certainly do not underestimate your accomplishment, it has been decided that this category is a little too specialized for a body of reference as general as ours," the letter read. "We receive many thousands of record claims every year and we think you will appreciate that we are bound to favour those which reflect the greatest interest."
At the mention of this rejection, the club members erupted into laughter. The longest origami train is, apparently, not as interesting as the man with the longest fingernails, but OrigaMIT takes this fact in stride.
Pictures of this paper-folding feat can be found at http://www.britishorigami.org.uk/gallery/york2003/train.htm.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 3, 2004.