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How to Do the Paper Book Tower Experiment

Learn how to do the paper book tower experiment with the instructions in this Howcast science project video.


Do you like to engineer?

If you know what an engineer does or don't, an engineer designs things like buildings and structures and cars and planes. But I want to just throw a question out there. A couple years ago there was a devastating earthquake in Haiti and so many of these buildings in Haiti just came crumbling down and just a few short months later or weeks, I can't remember what it was there was an earthquake in Chile or Chil-e depending upon however you want to say it. I say tomato, you say to-mato. So the one in Chile was so much stronger. I mean just powerful earthquake. But here's the weird part. There wasn't a lot of damage. So this is weird. Haiti, weaker earthquake, tons of damage. Chile, Chil-e so much stronger, much stronger earthquake, minimal damage. Well why?

Well, you see, building and engineering is very important and you need to think about strength, stability when you're building something. And I want to show you something really cool. What is this? It's just a sheet of paper right? I'm going to take this paper and this is card stock, it's not regular paper it's a little thicker, but it's just paper. I'm going to take the paper and I'm going to roll it around so I can make a really big cylinder. And when you do this at home you're really going to impress your parents. Because nobody is going to expect what's about to happen to happen. Take a piece of tape, take one, take two, take three.

Now you want to make sure that your cylinder is level because I'm going to put it on my table and I need it to be balanced because if it loses it's center of gravity, gravity will knock it down. Gravity is a force that pulls everything down to the earth and if it's not balanced it will fall. But this is called a cylinder. It's a building shape. Maybe structures are cylinder shaped. Now I have a question to ask you. Is this cylinder shape a strong cylinder shape to build with? You see buildings need to be strong, they need to withstand, they need hold weight.

Well what if I added a book to it. What if I added all of these books to it? Will a regular sheet of paper hold the weight, and I'm a strong dude, I cannot hold one of these. My arm right now is hurting. That's how heavy these books are. If I am not able to hold these books for a matter or ten seconds how in the world is this sheet of paper going to do it. Will it? No, right? Well let's see. That's science. I ask you a question, make a prediction. How many books do you think this paper could hold before it crumbles and gravity knocks it down? Five? Three? Okay? Made your prediction? Now lets test it. One at a time.

Now the first book is the most important book. It needs to be balanced. That's one book. That's two books. And now we have three. And now you have four. Ten. Okay. This is weird. How is paper holding up ten books? You know what this is proving? That there are certain shapes that are not meant to be strong. Okay? And that's unfortunate because in Haiti there aren't many engineers to help design buildings to be strong and withstand earthquakes. But look this cylinder is a strong shape.

That's ten. Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen. That's thirteen and fourteen. Now you want to add these books slowly otherwise you and your force is what's going to knock it down. You want to come from the top slowly. Fifteen and sixteen and seventeen and now, whoa, big book, it's going to fall, no way. Nineteen, and twenty. And now you got twenty-one and twenty-two. twenty-three. Boys and girls there's no way your prediction was it holding twenty-three books. This is jut paper. Look at this. This is I believe twenty-four. And now you have twenty-five and twenty-six and twenty-seven. I think I'm going to stop here.

It held twenty-seven books. Look at this. A regular sheet of paper which we rolled and we turned it into a cylinder shape held the weight of twenty-seven books. And look, for about a minute already. I wasn't able to hold it for ten seconds. And you know what? I have thousands of books here, I love to read. But guess what? I'm not going to add another book. Do you know why? because I'm giving you a challenge.

I dare you to go get a sheet of card stock, roll it up into a cylinder, get it flat, balance it. And go grab a bunch of books. Do you think you could beat my record of twenty-seven books right now? I don't think you can. I need you guys to go investigate and try to get your paper cylinder to hold more than twenty-seven books. And if you can hold more, try to beat your own record.

Have fun, investigate, and I'll see you guys soon.

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