This man folds a sheet of paper 7 times and it explodes!

Folding a sheet of paper
Our attempt failed at six folds.

Folding paper

Have you ever been challenged to fold a sheet of paper in half as many times as you can? There is a long standing challenge that a single sheet of paper, no matter the size, cannot be folded in half more than 6 times. We’ve tried it; it gets pretty tricky after five folds but after the sixth it is nigh on impossible. Unless, of course, you have a hydraulic press to hand.

This man uses a hydraulic press to help him fold an A4 piece of paper for the seventh time, the result is quite surprising!

…and why did this happen?

Thomas Amidon, (a professor of Paper and Bioprocess Engineering) explains to Popular Science that the catastrophic failure of the paper probably wasn’t the cellulose (wood) fibers, but another component of the paper, calcium carbonate. Calcium carbinate is often added to paper as a filler and gives paper its opacity and gloss. Under the high pressure of the hydrolic press the mineral collapsed.

Exponential growth

Whilst we’re on the topic of folding sheets of paper it’s worth illustrating the impressive effects of exponential growth. If you were able to fold a piece of paper, say, 23 times it would be 1km thick!

Pretty impressive. How many times to you reckon you would need to fold a sheet of paper for it to be as thick as the observable universe.

Hint: it’s not as many as you might initially think.

Nikola Slavkovic explains in the video below.


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