Thursday, November 17, 2011

Journal of Grumpy Physics

Theory: Various mathematical models have been used to postulate the motions of planets, galaxies, neutrinos, baseballs, and other objects of varying mass. However, the movements of certain objects are less predictable. An ongoing study into the variable location over time of one of these items has revealed, to date, no clear pattern for its movement.

Methods
: In 2000 an unidentified hospital staff member placed a 24 oz plastic flask of Nestle Coffeemate (Hazelnut flavor) into a nursing station refrigerator on the 8th floor of Local Hospital. A regional neurologist has casually noted the movements of the flask of proto-dairy product at intermittent intervals over time while scavenging for Diet Coke. The flask has been consistently identified over time by it's original expiration date (February, 2002) stamped on the rim.

Findings: The Coffeemate bottle has now been in the refrigerator for over 10 years. Careful observation (okay, lifting and shaking it a little from time-to-time) showed that its weight gradually decreased in the first several months of it's presence, then stabilized. While weight can vary depending on local gravity, the Earth's gravitational force has not changed substantially during this time, nor has the hospital been relocated to a planet with lesser gravity. The contents have not been directly inspected by the author during this time.

The bottle has remained on the same shelf (center shelf, refrigerator door) since its original placement. Its specific location on the shelf has varied (sometimes next to the Ranch dressing, at other times between the ketchup and mustard, and once briefly near a bottle of banana-based ketchup that a Filipino traveling nurse brought). Overall its location has been reasonably predictable within the limitations of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and Schrodinger's cat.

Results:
It's still there.

Discussion: There have been a number of postulates to explain this sort of object persistence. While local changes in Brownian kinetics or gravity are possible, the most likely cause of the flask's roughly unchanged location is attributable to the nature of Homo Sapiens. This local species appears to be disinterested in removing objects that are not the direct property of a given individual. Therefore, it's likely that only the specific animal which originally placed the Coffeemate on the shelf will be inclined to retrieve it, regardless of its current condition.

Its persistence, in spite of clearly being empty for several years, is likely due to one or more of the following possibilities:

1. The original owner no longer works at the hospital, or at least not on that floor.
2. The original owner has forgotten it's theirs, and therefore isn't touching it.
3. People are lazy.

It should be noted that item #3 is actually a unifying theorem for #1 & #2.

In conclusion, the author would like to note that I didn't put it there either, and so I ain't touching the freakin' bottle. The last time I tried to do something nice like that I almost got my hand chewed off by a rabid oncology nurse.

24 comments:

heidi said...

banana ketchup????

Grumpy, M.D. said...

It's quite popular in the Philippines.

Gen said...

Seriously, cleaning out the fridge in the teacher's lounge is tricky. A careful protocol is expected. A note goes up 1 week in advance. Several reminder e-mails need to be sent out warning everyone to get their stuff out of the fridge. There are still people aghast that some outdated yogurt got thrown out.

Haven said...

Maybe it's an early archeological experiment on fossilized consumables? Just leave it there for another 10 years and see what happens.

Special Sauce said...

Hey, we're not rabid, we're required to get our shots as part of our chemo certification.

Kris said...

It might be worth the replacement cost to remove it and see who comes forward to say "Hey, who threw away my Coffeemate?"

Patrick said...

I'd pour out the contents and clean it, and refill it with Diet Coke. Then, when the break room is full of people, Grumpy should rummage through the refrigerator looking for a Diet Coke, and not finding any, should loudly complain about his thirst, open the CoffeeMate bottle, smell it to faux-approve of the contents and drink the contents.

Packer said...

Grow a set and throw it out.

Anonymous said...

WELL, who thought that stressed-out, overworked, Diet Coke-crazed MDs or Yak herders had time to notice such things?

My suggestion, grow a pair of ovaries (that's a set, too, Packer ) and post the results of your experiment (change the phrasing and such. You don't want to blow blog cover or let the staff know Yak herders frequent the place) on the door of the fridge.

Then see what nurse (and you know it's gonna be a nurse)reads it and decides to toss the "lab rat."

Don said...

When I worked as a janitor in a nursing home, we janitors were forbidden from cleaning out the refrigerators at the nursing stations, no matter how old the contents. I made the mistake of throwing some stuff out that had longer hair than my beard, and I caught heck for it from the nurses, even though the smell was among the most disgusting I've ever encountered.
At my current employer, they clean out the fridge once evey year; the last year listed was 2008...

Word verification: mordor
Does the One Ring know how to do my file transfers? :(

does this make me a stickler? said...

One doesn't get to be a doctor of your level of specialization without solidly greater than average dose of intelligence, so I'm hoping you're not annoyed to be reminded that 'it's' is a contraction meaning 'it is' or 'it has'. (As in 'it's likely'.) If the word is being used as a possessive (its weight, its location, its expiration date), it's not a contraction, and doesn't need the apostrophe.

Anonymous said...

Totally cleaned out the fridge in my neuroscience labs floor but only things that already started to grow mold/ were empty containers(really?). Otherwise, ditto not touching it for fear of the grad students.

jimbo26 said...

Me : looking at bag of potatoes on floor " do you want to throw these potatoes away ? " ( mouldy )
Brother : I'd forgotten they were there .

ERP said...

I think you should do a taste test to make sure it has not changed numbers on the periodic table.

laughing alone said...

What peer reviewed journal with this gem be submitted? I only ask because I want to subscribe.

Anonymous said...

the last place I worked cleaned the fridge once a year.I never brought in lunch because of that but the one day I did-ribs and cheesecake for dessert-happened to be the day they cleaned it out.I was highly pissed off that my ribs and cheesecake got tossed.Yeah I know I should have put my name and the date on the bag but come on,nobody ever threw anything away in there.

Fizzy said...

The conclusions of your study are inconsistent with fact that about half the time when I bring in lunch, someone throws it out before I can eat it.

Liz's Blog said...

pack it up and send it to one of those sad people on the "hoarders" television shows. they'd probably use it, or give it a position of honor at the top of one of their piles.

LW said...

wow, if they never clean out the fridges in the hospital it makes you wonder what else never gets cleaned... bleurgh!

Crazy Cady said...

but i can't leave a pot pie in the freezer for two day that it doesn't get thrown out or absconded.

C said...

coffeemate tastes bad, has unsavory oils in it...it will not be consumed anytime soon

pharmacy chick said...

the pharmacy has 4 fridges, 2 for drugs 2 for food..( they are small fridges). Food fridge ( FF) had a bottle of coke and a bottle of water in the door. I didn't put the coke nor the water there so I didn't touch them. Nor did they move. The coke had no receipt, but the water did. I just never bothered to look at it. I finally decided to clean out the fridge and discard the dozens of receipts that littered the floor, I finally grabbed the water bottle. Dec 2008. Nice...I drank the coke.

SarahRx said...

If it doesn't have name and date on it then you have no right to complain about it being thrown out in the pharmacy department where I work. This is striclty adhered to (surprisingly it's the techs who are more anal about this than the pharmacists). They also clean out the fridge twice a year to remove items with a date greater than 1 week old. Signs are posted and emails sent to warn of impending cleanouts and no sympathy given to those who don't heed the warnings. I love my department!

WV: arstri - person who makes artisanal pastries.

katydogcrazy said...

Laughing Alone - this work would be submitted to "The annals of Improbable Science", the folks who bring us the IgNobel prizes annually.

 
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