Turning their attention for the moment from bewildering mice, scientists in Manchester have begun applying their rigorous methods to flinging bread on the floor, in an attempt to determine why toast behaves the way it does.
Food science specialist Professor Chris Smith and his team developed a new formula that explains why the toast leaves a buttery mess on the kitchen floor, using the physics of the piece of bread in their calculations for the first time.
This is ridiculous. Bread lands butter-side down because the buttered side is heavier than the non-buttered side. That’s just common sense. Butter is heavier than no butter; the heavier side falls harder, or more, or something.
If you put weights on a cat’s feet — I am available for this experiment, as I no longer love my cat and am willing to see him fend for himself for once — and fling it off of a giant table, for example, it will land on its feet. Not just because cats generally tend to land there to begin with; this would work just as well if you put weights on your cat’s head, presumably. Heavy things fall more. Or harder. Butter + bread is heavier than bread alone.
Professor Smith and his team dropped 100 slices of toast from table height in a special lab experiment, and showed that buttering the bread means it only has the opportunity to rotate one and a half times.
However, the professor admitted the only way to end one of life’s most annoying accidents is to buy a bigger table or, even better, don’t drop the toast.
“Our research shows that sod’s law really does exist when it comes to dropped toast,” said Professor Smith.
“The upshot is that if you want to ensure your toast lands butter side up then you should invest in a higher table of approximately 8ft high that allows the toast to rotate a full 360 degrees.
A quick search of “eight foot high table” results in a great many options for eight-foot-long tables. It may be that eight-foot-high tables do not exist.
“Failing that – try not to drop the toast.”
The issue was first raised as early as 1835 with an article in a New York magazine.
The article in question was in fact a poem featured in New York Monthly Magazine, and is reproduced here in its entirety:
I never had a slice of bread,
Particularly large and wide,
That did not fall upon the floor,
And always on the buttered side!
These were boom days for poets. All one had to do was stroll into an editor’s office, grab him by the lapels, and announce “I HAVE POETRY TO SELL. I HAVE THINGS TO SAY ABOUT THE STATE OF AMERICA AND MY RED, RED BLOOD” and he’d start foaming at the mouth and flinging gold coins around until one of the fiction editors was able to finally calm him down.
The research was commissioned to mark the launch of the latest series of The Big Bang Theory on DVD, a comedy about a group of socially awkward American scientists and Professor Smith believes this issue would keep them all occupied.
He said: “The question of whether the toast does indeed always land buttered side down is exactly the kind of quandary that would keep the characters in Big Bang Theory awake at night.”
What other things would keep the characters in The Big Bang Theory awake at night, one wonders. What strange horrors fill their fictional heads as they jerk out of the dreamless in a cold and empty room?
When they sleep–if they sleep, do they dream of toast?
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.