Vol. 4, Issue 3, March 28, 2006
Education for the Otiose
The Bentinel

University of Colorado Scientist Close to Extending Five-Second Rule

Scientists announced a major breakthrough in extending the so-called "five-second rule," a discovery with potentially major implications for the world's food supply.

"We are very hopeful that this will actually lead to a substantial difference in the overall time, perhaps extending it up to a minute or ninety seconds," said Nils Perspetter, the lead scientist on the team at the University of Colorado at Boulder. "The secret, of course, lies in nanotechnology."

The five-second rule dictates the window of time during which it is safe and acceptable to retrieve food fallen upon the floor and eat it. The principle was first defined by Sir Isaac Newton, after he picked up and ate the apple which famously fell on his head within five seconds.

"Actually the term 'five second rule' is a bit of a misnomer," said Perspetter. "Food remains safe to retrieve from the floor for at least six to eleven seconds, depending on the ambient temperature, humidity, and number of other people present. There also seem to be some class implications, because for the wealthy the five-second rule doesn't seem to apply at all." Minor extensions of the rule through brushing off the food, blowing on it, or simply adding lots more salt have all been proposed, but none has managed to extend the window of opportunity past fifteen seconds or so.

"Thousands of tons of food fall on the floor in the United States each year, and only a minute fraction is recaptured within the acceptable window of time," said Perspetter. "We need to get to a point where you can drop your sandwich on the floor, go pick up the phone and tell your mother about the dropped sandwich, then come back and retrieve it, ready to eat."

At issue is the transference of various cooties to the food in question, sometimes collectively referred to as "the ick."

"Any food that's on the floor too long acquires cooties pretty quickly," said Perspetter. "Foods which are moist are particularly susceptible to this, because everyone knows that cooties travel more readily through a fluid environment."

Past proposals for extending the five-second rule have included spraying the food and/or floor with Teflon, installing large nets beneath tables, and even genetically breeding "slower cooties" to be released into the wild, much as sterile mosquitoes or fruit flies are released as part of pest control programs. Perspetter insists, however, that his proposal is fundamentally different from these approaches.

"It involves gratuitous manipulation of the space-time continuum," he said rubbing his hands together with glee, "which does require a nuclear power source. However, we are confident that the ends justify the means. I mean, we are talking about enhancing the food supply here."

Widescale testing of Perspetter's approach is due to begin later this month. However, he admits that even his approach can do little for households with pets.

"If you've got a hungry dog lying in wait under the table, you won't even have five seconds," said Perspetter. "You're on your own there."

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