How Many Times Can a Piece of Paper Be Folded?

yellow paper

As you explore the fun world of origami, you may be wondering, "How many times can a piece of paper be folded?" It's a good question, and there are several variables that can affect the answer.

About Folding

For most people's purposes, a fold is made when a piece of paper is creased and bent over on itself. You can fold the paper again in a different location, but this does not technically count as an additional fold. For paper folding experiments, the paper must be folded in half each time.

The problem is that paper folding is exponential. Each time a piece of paper is folded, the layers double. For instance, a single piece of paper, when folded once, has two layers. If you fold this same piece again, it will have four layers. A third fold produces eight layers. This pattern continues until you are unable to fold the paper again due to thickness. Eventually, the thickness of the stack of paper will be greater than the length or width.

How Many Times Can a Piece of Paper Be Folded?

According to a popular urban legend, it isn't possible to fold a piece of paper more than seven times. This myth says that the size, type, and weight of paper are irrelevant and that after fold number seven, it becomes impossible to create another crease in the paper.

Paper Folding Videos

The television show MythBusters took on this issue. You can see a great folding experiment in this video clip from the show.

Britney Gallivan

While videos are a great way to disprove the seven-fold myth, they don't necessarily show you the mechanics of folding a piece of paper more than seven times. Reading an article from The Historical Society of Pomona Valley offers information on how you can replicate paper folding experiments and information about why they work. It describes how high school student Britney Gallivan folded a piece of paper 12 times in 2002. This site also offers a booklet with additional information about paper folding.

Factors Influencing Folding

There are several factors than can influence the number of times a piece of paper can be folded:

  • Paper size: Theoretically, you can fold a large piece of paper more often than a small one.
  • Paper shape: A long, thin rectangle of paper may be able to be folded more times than a square.
  • Paper weight: Lightweight paper may reduce the thickness issue that arises with multiple folds.
  • Paper fiber content: Fiber content may also be a factor in folding a paper multiple times. Flexible papers like origami paper may allow more folds that traditional paper.

What do you think? How many times can a piece of paper be folded? The only way to know is to try it yourself. Have fun, and good luck!

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How Many Times Can a Piece of Paper Be Folded?