How many times can you fold a piece of paper in half?

Such a question had never occurred to me but if asked, my initial response would have been “A lot”. But I would have been wrong. It turns out that the number is surprisingly small and that I had (once again) been misled by the deceptive power of geometric progression.

I’ll let readers have the fun of guessing for themselves (assume that you can have a piece of paper of any size to start with) and then they can read this New Scientist report about a group of students who worked on this question for seven years before breaking the previous record.

It turns out that there is some fascinating physics involved in crumpling paper.


  1. Steven says

    Hi Mano,

    You should clarify that the question is referring to how many times you can fold a piece of paper *in half*. I could put quite a lot of folds into a piece of paper at random if they didn’t have to be in half each time. Cool project for those students, too!


  2. Max says

    It depends a bit on the rules of folding. Folding a paper accordion style will allow you many more folds. I know this is pedantic, but confusion can occur. As a child, I was confused often with one of the standard uses of the word “fold” as a synonym for “times” rather than expressing an exponential increase as I thought it would.

  3. says

    The Mythbusters was good -- they got one more fold than…than expected? than the record? (that seems unlikely) than the usual? I forget. Anyway they got it by using a piece of paper the size of a football field, or some such thing.

    It’s fun how easy it is to confirm that it can’t be done more than a few times.

  4. billyjoe says

    Hey just use google!

    Firstly, they folded both ways (front to back alternating with left to right)
    They folded 7 times before enlisting the help of a steamroller to flatten the folded sheet. After they got to 9 folds they enlisting the help of a forklift to bend the sheets to obtain a final of 11 folds. To me it seems possible for them to have folded once more for a total of 12 folds.
    However, without the use of steamroller and forklift, they managed only 7 folds, so it’s questionable whether they actually busted the myth.

    However, here is someone who folded a roll of toilet paper (1)in half and (2) in the same direction, 12 times.

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