Rumor Flies

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Rumor Flies comically addresses the origins, evolution, and veracity of your favorite rumors, myths, and misconceptions. Tune in for more research, stories, and unsolicited commentary! Participation encouraged.

Snap Judgment #13: Bro, do you even fold?

#77 No piece of paper can be folded more than seven times. (False)

From "The Hydraulic Press Channel"

From "The Hydraulic Press Channel"

So let's jump right into this, because there's a lot to unfold (hue hue hue). So the answer is no, a piece of paper can in fact be folded more than 7 times; however, it's very difficult and has a lot of parameters that need to be met. If you tear a small piece of paper out of a notebook, you will not be able to do it without serious strength, and even then, if it's the wrong material it can simply explode or suffer some other sort of failure. Every time you fold the paper, it becomes exponentially thicker and thus harder to bend/flatten - this is the crux of the challenge. 

As is often the case, Mythbusters also tested this and found it to be false. The video is fun as always, and they even managed to fold it eleven times. In this case, they were able to accomplish it by 1. making sure the paper was massively large, and 2. bringing enough "strength" to bear in the form of heavy machinery to flatten/crease the paper (as well as having several people fold it). 



Enter: Britney Gallivan. Britney decided to REALLY test this, as well as do research into the forces at play. Mental Floss has a solid overview: she used a 4000-ft long roll of toilet paper and managed 12 folds. For the more mathematically inclined among you, she even derived a formula. She also figured out that "single side folding" is arguably the best method. Later in January of 2012, St. Mark's School in Massachusetts beat her record with another method, achieving 13 folds.

So there you have it! Hope you enjoyed this week's Snap Judgment.