The current record for folding a piece of paper in half stands at 12 times, contrary to the myth being 8 times, but fold it 103 times and the thickness will be larger than the observable universe.
In an amazing example of exponential growth calculated by Nikola Slavkovic, a standard piece of paper at just 1/10th of a millimetre will be larger than 93 billion light-years if folded perfectly in half 103 times over. It seems utterly bamboozling to envision such a distance, when 10 folds would only be the width of an average human hand, but the human mind is inclined to think linearly rather than exponentially.
What does this mean? It means that we will always question the following amazing stats:
- At 23 folds, the thickness will be one kilometre
- 7 folds later at 30, you will reach space (100km high)
- 42 folds will get you to the moon, and 51 folds to the sun
- By 81 folds, your thick piece of paper will measure 127,786 light-years across, reaching the length of the Andromeda Galaxy (141,000 light-years)
- Another 9 folds will push things to 130.8 million light-years across. This would be bigger than The Virgo Supercluster, the local Galactic Group which contains 100 different galaxies including our own Milky Way
- And finally, the observable Universe is exceeded by 103 folds