Monday, December 26, 2011

The tale of the toast.

Today I fell into an inflamed discussion (not to say - an argument) with someone about why the toast always falls butter side down. First - this is a fact. Second - it's such an exasperating one that it deserves its own blog post.
When I was younger and more depressive I used to explain this phenomenon by Murphy's law. To paraphrase - if there is a way something could suck, it will suck. It's an easy way of perceiving the world,  however unsatisfactory as you're closer to leaving your teens (my argumentation is strong here as I just spilled my tea over my laptop. You see my point). When you're done with middle school physics you start saying that everything that happens is the result of gravity, star -> footnote -> air resistance is negligible. This was what I was saying arguing about the toast today morning. Yet, it's not quite the case, so let me tell you why this peculiarity is so. There are four factors:
1. Gravity, star -> footnote -> air resistance is negligible (like, butter weighs more than nothing)
2. The size of bread.
3. The height of the table/kitchen counter.
4. The angle at which bread starts its fall.

All these factors lead us to the ultimate reason. It's the period of rotation. It can be seen in astronomical objects (Earth rotates with the period of one day). The rotation period of a toast is considerably smaller because of its size (and mass). Here comes the factor number two. A cracker is smaller, hence its rotation period is smaller. We can therefore say that if we let a cracker and a toast fall at the same time from the same height, the cracker will be falling more rapidly. Here comes the factor number three - the average height of a kitchen counter and an average size of a toast are circumstances that make the cycle intersection equal precisely the floor. However if we got on a ladder (bet that's what I'm thinking about doing right now?), changing the height in this way, the toast would fall butter side up! If we changed the size of the slice instead of the height, for instance if we sacrificed a cracker and spared the ladder, the cracker would fall butter side up!
The fourth factor means more or less the fact that butter is never evenly distributed and that you rarely hold a sandwich at a perfect balance, which makes it more prone to rotate and fuel it's fall.
And the first factor is obvious. It's what they taught us in middle school - gravity is everything! Star ->footnote-> air resistance is negligible.
Isn't physics fascinating?! Fun science, fun science, it's the science that is fun!
I am sorry I haven't posted my own experiment results on here. I'd better go work on that now.

Song of the day: O Come All Ye Faithful - Elvis Presley

PS. Here's an adorable picture - the text says 'The sandwich always falls butter side down. You made it the wrong way'.

PPS. The Doctor Who Christmas Special, you guys!

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