Can you wrap a bus with a newspaper?

There is an old Russian joke:
- Can you wrap a bus with a newspaper?
- Yes, you can. If newspaper has Khrushchev's speech in it.

Nikita Khrushchev was a Russian president (during the Cuban missile crisis) with little formal education but with a passionate and long public appearances. He is famous for taking off his right shoe and banging it on a desk during one of the international debates.

In 1956 Khrushchev gave a record speech that lasted 6 hours. However, the title for the longest presidential speech lasting 8 hours goes to Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez. Cuban ex-president, Fidel Castro, is on second place with 7 hours and 10 minutes.

What about our American politicians?
The longest inaugural speech, containing 8445 words and lasting 1 hour 45mins, was given by William Henry Harrison in 1841, who happened to be the shortest serving president as he died from pneumonia after a month in the office. The rest of the presidential speeches were rather unremarkable in length, with US Senators capturing the light spot instead. One record of 15 hour speech goes to Louisiana senator Huey P. Long in 1935. He frustrated his colleagues while entertaining spectators with his recitations of Shakespeare and his reading of recipes for "pot-likkers." Another record for the longest individual speech goes to South Carolina's J. Strom Thurmond who filibustered for 24 hours and 18 minutes against the Civil Rights Act of 1957.

Can you really wrap a bus with a newspaper containing a political speech of such length?

Let's check this joke.

Senator Long's 15 hour long speech is known to have 150,000 words.
One page of NYTimes may contain up to 3,000 words.
150,000 / 3,000 = 50 pages
assuming double-sided printing we get 25 pages to use for wrapping

What is the size of each page?
Current NYTimes page is 21" x 12" (it used to be larger).
The square area covered by one page is 21" x 12" = 252 inch2

What is the size of a bus?

This bus-for-sale from China has a length of 389", width of 98" and height of 134".
Total area to cover when wrapping this bus is:
two sides + top + front + back, that is:
2 x 389 x 134 + 389 x 98 + 2 x 134 x 98 = 142,374 + 26,264 = 168,638 inch2

How many pages will we need to wrap this bus?
area of the bus / area of one page
168,638 / 252 = 669 pages

And we have only 25 pages from Long's 15 hour speech.
It may take 669/25 = 27 of such newspapers or a single speech of 27 x 15 = 401 hours to wrap a bus in.
Fortunately for us, our politicians are not as talkative.
Have a great week and use your Sunday paper wisely.

Read another story by The Math Mom: Sarkozi's and My Height Trouble.


  1. Don't you have to wrap the bottom of the bus too?

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