16 November 2005

Go, Math Girl!!

This might be old news to some of you (especially if you watch Numb3rs), but I just found out about Britney Galivan who, in being challenged by an "impossible" extra credit assignment, did what no other mathematician has been able to do:

For extra credit in a math class Britney was given the challenge to fold anything in half 12 times. After extensive experimentation, she folded a sheet of gold foil 12 times, breaking the record. This was using alternate directions of folding. But, the challenge was then redefined to fold a piece of paper. She studied the problem and was the first person to realize the basic cause for the limits. She then derived the folding limit equation for any given dimension. Limiting equations were derived for the case of folding in alternate directions and for the case of folding in a single direction using a long strip of paper. The merits of both folding approaches are discussed, but for high numbers of folds, single direction folding requires less paper.

The exact limit for single direction folding case was derived. It is based on the accumulative limiting effects induced by each and every fold in the folding process. Considering the intricacy of the problem the equation has a relatively simple form.

Congrats, Britney, and may you continue to challenge the impossible.

EDIT: Oh, man. I should read the whole story before I post. This is REALLY old news -- 2001. Sorry about that.

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