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  #1  
Old 05 January 2007, 05:04 AM
Asmodaeus
 
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Icon05 Folding Paper Problem

I was reading "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell and early on the book (page 11), the author states

Quote:
I give you a large piece of paper, and I ask you to fold it over again, and then again, and again, until you have refolded the original paper 50 times. How tall do you think the final stack is going to be?
He then goes on to state

Quote:
...the real answer is that the height of the stack would approximate the distance to the sun.
I know phyiscally that it's not possible to fold a piece of paper that many times, but if it was, does anyone know if this would be true or not? In my estimations, the final stack was about 15 million miles short of the sun, but knowing me I probably calculated it wrong.
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  #2  
Old 05 January 2007, 05:43 AM
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ganzfeld ganzfeld is offline
 
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2 to the power of 50 is about 1,125,899,907,000,000. Multiply that by the thickness of one sheet to get the distance. (This puzzle is always given a different answer, X times to the moon or the sun, etc. I don't think anyone ever bothers calculating exactly and neither will I, just this minute.)

ETA - Of course, I couldn't resist. I think you're about right for the thickness of ordinary printing paper: I came up about 16 million kilometers short, which is about 83% of the way to the sun. A little thicker paper and the answer given in the book would be correct.

Last edited by ganzfeld; 05 January 2007 at 06:03 AM.
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  #3  
Old 09 January 2007, 10:19 PM
gwlith y wawr
 
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Witch

this sounds like a challenge to me....

and to be eco-friendly, i'll use recycled paper

oh... i'll have to wait for the rain to stop first. or my giant sun-bridge may get soggy
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  #4  
Old 09 January 2007, 11:29 PM
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http://www.abc.net.au/science/k2/moments/s1523497.htm

"if you had a sheet of paper, and folded it in half 50 times, how thick would it be? The answer is about 100 million kilometres, which is about two thirds of the distance between the Sun and the Earth."


http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Folding.html

"Since one sheet of typical 20-pound paper has a thickness of about 0.1 millimeter, folding 50 times (if this were physically possible, which of course it is not) would produce a wad of height 1.13x10^(11) meters, and folding one more time would make the stack higher than the distance between the Earth and Sun."
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  #5  
Old 10 January 2007, 03:54 PM
matches
 
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Teacher Not quite to the sun

actually since the original quote doesn't specify folding the paper in half the maximum hieght of a peice of paper folded 50 times in an acordian style would be 5 millimeters (based on the presumption that an average piece of paper is .1 milimeters in thickness)

Now I presume this is ment to show the power of doubling, as is done in a penny doubled every day, etc. etc.

I'm not quite sure what the author's point was in this book by listing such a silly number puzzel. I certainly hope they weren't trying to tie it to something of dire consequence as that would be very misleading, as very few things in the universe actually continually double, and most things that increase are very self limiting. But maybe that's the point that you reach a tipping point long before you get to the sun and you can't fold the paper anymore.
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  #6  
Old 10 January 2007, 07:17 PM
Troberg Troberg is offline
 
 
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Quote:
ETA - Of course, I couldn't resist. I think you're about right for the thickness of ordinary printing paper: I came up about 16 million kilometers short, which is about 83% of the way to the sun. A little thicker paper and the answer given in the book would be correct.
Just fold it one more time and you'll be there. Just make sure you do it during the night, or the paper will catch fire and you'll have to start all over again.
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  #7  
Old 10 January 2007, 11:35 PM
Kahdra Kahdra is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matches View Post
I'm not quite sure what the author's point was in this book by listing such a silly number puzzel. I certainly hope they weren't trying to tie it to something of dire consequence as that would be very misleading, as very few things in the universe actually continually double, and most things that increase are very self limiting. But maybe that's the point that you reach a tipping point long before you get to the sun and you can't fold the paper anymore.
I read the book, and if I recall correctly, his point was most people cannot accurately estimate exponential growth. Thus, they cannot understand that a few sick people can start an epidemic or that a few eccentric teenagers can spark a major fad. It was an interesting book, but I preferred Freakonomics.
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  #8  
Old 13 January 2007, 04:25 AM
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Should I read it, then? I was intrigued by the apple-orange on the cover, but I wasn't sure if I would like it enough to justify spending $30 on it.
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Old 13 January 2007, 04:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Troberg View Post
Just fold it one more time and you'll be there. Just make sure you do it during the night, or the paper will catch fire and you'll have to start all over again.
Will it catch fire though, as there's no oxygen around the sun (or maybe an infinitessimally small amount.) or will our paper tower merely be vapourised? If so how close could I get my paper ladder to the sun before it is vapourised?

Last edited by Eddylizard; 13 January 2007 at 04:55 AM. Reason: spelling
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  #10  
Old 17 January 2007, 04:37 AM
Kahdra Kahdra is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MapleLeaf View Post
Should I read it, then? I was intrigued by the apple-orange on the cover, but I wasn't sure if I would like it enough to justify spending $30 on it.

Check it out from the library.
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