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Subject: Re: Egg Sandwich Computations ( 13 of 13 )
Posted by Nathaniel Tagg


I'd just like to take a minute to respond to the posts about my egg-sandwich computations.

Firstly, a comment to those who have pointed out possible flaws in computation. I have neglected all factors that change the final result by less than a factor of about 5 or so. For instance, egg sandwiches DO tend to get eaten, and get smaller as this happens; I had been assuming a mean life of 1/2 hour per sandwich times a cross section of 100 cm2. A better estimate would be a linear decrease of the sandwich area over 30 minutes, which results in a change in the time x area figure by a factor of 0.5. This, I believe, is quibbling, and does not change the result substantially.

Second, a comment to those worrying about their sandwiches. I believe, in fact, that the flux of ball bearings coming down from 747 jets is quite small.. probably on the order of 1 ball bearing/ 10000 km2 / century. Thus, you are quite safe. Really. You can put away your parasols. The problem was to work out the probability of hitting a sandwich given that a particular _hypothetical_ ball bearing was dropped. Go look up 'Geidenken experiment', and then come back and tell me how to pronounce it.

Third, about sandwich type. I suspect that peanut butter or ham sandwiches are probably about 10 times more common than egg, so they are obviously in proportionally greater danger of bb-sandwich collisions.. but 10 times almost nothing is still almost nothing.

Fourth, about the sandwiches in the actual airplanes themselves. This is a trickly little argument, one that opens all sorts of interpretations about the semantics of the orignal statement 'dropping a ball bearing from a 747'. I will leave such arguments to others, but this is exactly the kind of cool insight that leads to good physics. A near parallel would be looking for neutrinoless double-beta decay... which brings to mind a neat simulation: Since it is proven that ball bearings and egg sandwiches are coupled similarly as neutrinos and electrons, it then reasonable to assume that the number of egg sandwiches hit INSIDE airplanes by ball bearings is proportional to the number of neutrinoless double-beta decays. Therefore, I urge reports of any and all observed instances of this phenomena to be submitted to me immediately, in order to shore up the current work on determining whether neutrinos are Majorana or Dirac particles. Who says you need a $100 mil detector?

Thanks again for your attention. There will be no quiz. Share and enjoy.

---Nathaniel
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