Fun paper puzzle


Futility Closet showed me how "University of Toronto math professor Ed Barbeau can take a rectangular piece of paper and, using only a pair of scissors, produce the object pictured above." Can you figure out how it's done? If you give up, here's the answer.




  1. First you print out the picture of the object onto the rectangular sheet of paper.

    Then find someone who’s clever, hand them the paper and say “Make me one of these or I’ll stab you with these scissors.”

  2. Our science fiction club used that design back in the 80s to print table fliers announcing the Douglas Hofstadter talk that we had coming up.

    We called them 4-dimensional cross coupled heat sinks.

  3. Interesting. I saw it right away, but I thought it was too easy and I was missing something. I wonder why this stumps people?

    1. thought so too until I tried to make it and had to figure it out. Took about 4 minuted with a postit note pad.

    2. This^…  I saw it, made it, in a few seconds. But I agree with the first commenter – it would be cooler with paper that had a different color on each side.

  4. haha. well it should be noted that there are two ways you can rotate the paper 180 degrees, (as in clockwise and counter clockwise), and only one of them works. and dummies like me take a long time to catch onto that.

    1. It’s a spatial relations thing.  For some people, it’s not particularly obvious that the paper has been “twisted” to get into this configuration.  So the fact that that vertical flap can’t be bent down to be on the same plane as the entire sheet of paper, if you’re unable to visualize how to it got there, would make it puzzling.

  5. I feel dead chuff I figured it out without looking at the answer – or having a model in front of me. See it once it’s done makes it easier.

  6. It took me about four seconds to figure it out, then another five to realize it’s because I’ve seen it somewhere before.  It took reading the comments to remember that it was Mr. Wizard!  That show taught me a lot, even when I don’t remember it was the show that did it.

    1. I didn’t get the ah-ha! moment.  I’m occasionally surprised when people have trouble visualizing things like this, but then I’m also amazed at people who can sing on-key, juggle four or more items, skate without falling down, or freehand draw anything more complicated than stick figures.  I can’t do any of those.

      But I guess I’m your guy when you need freestanding place cards!

  7. I figured it out and made one as soon as I saw it.  Yet as soon as it was finished it I was weirded out by it even more… Even though I figure it out my brain still don’t “get it” and it still seems unnatural, out of this world.

  8. +1 seems basic and straightforward, figured it out in a second.

    Spent ten wondering if I was missing something…

    Guess it could be a handy test to determine spatial skills

  9. I ran offset presses for 15 years and during the long, mind-numbing runs found an outlet in decorative paper crafting (and airplane folding but that’s a different story). I would make these and show them off to customers or vendors walking through the shop floor and ask if they had ever seen our line of 3-sided paper. The effect was best when it was carefully mounted onto a piece of cardboard. 

    Ahh, the simple times were sometimes the best. 

  10. Took me a few seconds, then a few more seconds thinking I was missing something because it hadn’t taken me long. Then a few more seconds to actually try it.

  11. I found an alternate solution (or a different problem)…When I saw the picture I thought the center flap was doubled (folded at the apex).  You can still do it, but it takes more cutting and thinking. 

  12. Well, I’m only a PARTIAL idiot, and even after looking at the answer, I’m still not getting it.

    Someone with a brain should make a nice, well-lit video and post it on YouTube. Revenue-sharing millions…here you come! LOL.

  13. Facepalming the scientific and math skills of the average American.  This is not sad, this is pathetic.

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