12 January 2012

Superheroes of Science!

New Scientist has a short film of students at St. Mark's School in Southborough, Massachusetts they're breaking a paper-folding record by completing 13 folds, a challenge that students at the school have been tackling for seven years with the help of teacher James Tanton.

Based on the thickness of a sheet of paper, a formula can be used to calculate the minimum length needed to fold it a given number of times. Paper roughly doubles in size with each fold and the sides become more rounded, making it harder and harder to bend. Wrinkles also have a significant impact, making the formula difficult to follow in practice. In addition, no single roll is long enough to fold thirteen times, requiring the group to tape together numerous rolls of industrial toilet paper 1.2 kilometers long.

To achieve the feat, the students first arranged and taped 64 layers of paper into the physical structure of the sixth fold. When you fold paper, the layers on the end form a pattern of peaks and valleys, so the configuration mimicked these layers to accommodate the 16 kilometers of paper inside. The students then proceeded to physically fold the stack. The final result was a 1.5-metre wide and 76-centimetre high wad comprising 8192 layers of paper.

Although no official rules govern the record, the students decided that the folds must be in one direction and that the complete structure should be freestanding.

Until 2002, it was thought that paper could only be folded a maximum of seven times. High school student Britney Gallivan dispelled the popular myth by resolving the mathematics and successfully folding a single roll of toilet paper twelve times in a record-breaking feat.   

Now it seems that Britney's groundbreaking research has been proved slightly wrong and it is possible to fold toilet paper one extra time. The student's wk is truly epoch making. Do not consider it an amusement it is truly a paradigm shift in science. The world will never be the same again!


susan said...

Well I just had to see that for myself. Unfortunately, the link didn't go direct so maybe this one will. Pretty damn amazing.

jams o donnell said...

Sheer brilliance eh Susan. Thanks for the revised link!

SnoopyTheGoon said...

This explains shortages in toilet paper supply recently...

But yes, it's an admirable feat.

jams o donnell said...

I know, the bugger caused a run on TP but it was in a great cause!