# Folding paper in half

I was always lead to believe that it was impossible to fold paper in half more than 7 times but a friend of mine maintains that some girl has managed to fold it 12 times.

Mythbusters included it on one of their shows and they were able to do it with a piece of paper the size of a warehouse. I may recall incorrectly, but I thought the girl did 11 and Mythbusters did 12.

IIRC, the girl didn’t fold squares, she folded lengthwise. Mythbusters folder a sheet several hundred feet square It was episode 72 here.

My dad challenged me w/ this when I was a kid. I even got a large sheet of onionskin, but still couldn’t do it.

as far as I know, there’s no inherent limit, but it’s one of those things that gets more than twice as difficult to achieve every fold as the previous one

…smart and HOT!

I never actually calculated the exact length needed, like Ms. Gallivan did, but it always bugged me when people said that it was absolutely impossible, or worse, that it had been mathematically proven to be impossible. Anyone who thinks about the problem briefly should be able to conclude that, for any arbitrary number of folds, there exists some sufficiently large and thin paper which can be folded that many times. Such a paper may be impractically large, but there’s a huge difference between “impractical” and “impossible”.

Which is not to say that Ms. Gallivan doesn’t deserve the credit she gets. Not only did she rigorously derive the formula, but she also went and actually did it. Either one would be notable, but that combination of theory and experiment is rarely found in an individual.

Am I the only one who always interpreted this myth to mean a standard 8.5 by 11 sheet of paper?

Is it possible to fold any more than eight sheets of paper (once), and get them to stay folded? In publishing, “signatures” of paper sewn or glued together to make a book are always eight sheets thick, no fewer, no more. (Eight sheets folded make 16 leaves, or 32 pages.)

My understanding is that that practice comes from how the original sized paper is folded, not because of any inherent limitations on how many sheets can be folded over.

It depends on your definition of ‘fold’. After so many iterations, it’s not a fold anymore, it’s a bend.

On the first turn, you’re attempting to double over one sheet
On the second turn, you have two sheets
On the third, you have four sheets
On the fourth, you have eight sheets
On the fifth, you have sixteen sheets
On the sixth, you have thirty-two sheets
On the seventh, you have sixty-four sheets

So on the eighth fold, quite apart from all the distortion and puckering that arises from previous folds, you are attempting to fold a stack of one hundred and twenty-eight sheets of paper in half. I say this is impossible to do anyway, not because of the size of the item you’re working with, but simply because it’s impossible to fold 128 sheets of paper neatly in half all together - the ones on the outside will not be folded, they’ll just be bent around the rest of the bundle. Furthermore, the difference in radius between the inside of the bend and the outside causes the inner sheets to be squeezed out.

Try it with 128 sheets of new, A3 copier paper - it’s impossible to produce anything that can be respectably described as a ‘fold’

I think you’re misunderstanding my question. I said one fold, not eight. Is it possible to fold more than eight sheets of paper once. (Or are you addressing the original post?)

well I know where you can get a piece of paper around 5 miles long…gonna be kinda hard to fold something that long no matter what though.

I was addressing the OP. Sorry if that wasn’t clear, but actually, what I’m saying concurs, in terms of mechanics, with you on the signatures thing (BTW I work in the publishing trade).
If you try to fold too many sheets at once, not only will they not lay flat, but the inner pages are forced away from the spine. More than a few sheets at a time and it’s just not possible to get a sharp fold.

So you are saying that it is impossible to fold a sheet of paper IN HALF more than 7 times no matter the size of the paper

Which is what I always believed

I meant to add, earlier, that this question is convincing me yet further that some weird higher power is at work… coincidences seem to be everywhere. It was only about 4 or 5 days ago that I was reading something about the “folding paper in half” myth and followed the link to the woman that had managed 12 folds. Then almost immediately, what do you know, a question about it comes up on here, so I was able to give the link straight away from my IE history. This kind of thing happens so often it is beginning to freak me out – I come across a word, place, or item that I have either never heard of, or not even thought about in years and years, and suddenly it pops up again within a day or two.

Pretty much - I’d say even the seventh and possibly sixth folds are borderline.

Anything thin and elastic (elasticity being needed to overcome the inner/outer radius problem) enough to be folded in half more than seven times almost certainly doesn’t qualify as ‘paper’.

Except, of course, that, as shown in the linked sites, it’s been done. With paper, too, as I understand it, not Uncle Cecil’s adaptation…
Indeed, if one bothers to read the link, there is even a mathematical model for showing the limit on folding…