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STONEY (st0ney) wrote,
@ 2005-02-10 09:04:00
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    Toast
    Why does toast land butter side down when I drop it?

    Well, this is an important question that has plagued scientist for millennia. There have been many wild and wonderful theories, and much experimentation done. The first theory, and probably the widest accepted is the "Sod's Law" theory. This states that if anything can go wrong, it probably will. Also referred to as "Murphy's Law" http://www.murphys-laws.com/murphy/murphy-true.html , this theory actually has roots in the very core science of the universe. When one considers the creation, chaos, left or right handedness and eventual destruction of the universe, Murphy's Law has a ring of truth, and a beautifully simplistic one at that.
    Another theory is the centre of gravity theory. The fact that the butter is on one side of the toast, and the probability that in most cases the action of buttering has not been completed, causing the butter to lay on the surface of the toast in ridges, means that the toast is gravitationally biased toward it's buttered side, and will therefore rotate in mid air and land on that surface. However, I don't think that this is totally the reason in the case of toast. Gravitational torque may have a slight effect, but on average the toast is going to fall about four feet or so, not enough time for it to undergo a 180º turn. If we had higher tables or worksurfaces then we might see this theory in action.
    More likely is that as the toast is slipping from the plate, of from our hand, friction between the toast and the surface it is slipping from causes one side of the toast to effectively "slow down", and the toast begins to turn at this point. The resulting spin (torque) is caused by the weight of the toast reacting with the edge of the surface, and the friction between the toast and the surface. The turn is the spin (angular velocity) x time of fall. If the spin is less than 270º, the toast lands butter side down.
    As I have already mentioned, all of this is connected in some way to the very nature of the universe. If the tables were higher, the spin may have time to "right" the toast again. however, tables are the size they are because we are the size we are. Our size (height) is governed by certain fundamental constants of the universe. The maximum height for a bipedal creature of humanoid form considering these constants is about ten feet (any more and a fall may be fatal). However, even if the breakfast table was five feet high, there still would not be enough time for toast to right itself.
    So in answer to your question, toast falls butter side down because that is the way the universe is. Hmm, I could answer a lot of questions that way...


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