Friday, May 17, 2013

A Pacifier Puzzle

Why pacifiers are almost always magically fall nipple-side-up saving us from the need to wash them before sticking back into baby's mouth? Ok, sometimes we do suck them before giving it back to our treasures. That, by the way, is the healthiest wash of all according to the latest research.

Three of my daughter's not-so-favorite pacifiers on the carpet of (oh!) our hotel room. Her favorite pacifier unfortunately doesn't fall nipple-side-up and didn't participate in this staged experiment.
If this reminds you a buttered toast paradox - you are on the right way to the answer.

Your answers are accepted any time until midnight Eastern Time on Sunday, on our Family Puzzle Marathon.

Jerome said...

I think we are supposed to say that the center of gravity of the pacifier is such that the pacifier will fall center of gravity first or heavy side down.

While I knew about the buttered toast paradox, I had no idea it had a history. Here is a brief entry that leads to more discussion that is perhaps perfect for a Monday morning when you reveal your answers and all of us need an extra cup of coffee because it is Monday and we need something light to think about.

anne-marie said...

Well Myth Busters proved that a toast has an equal chance to fall down the buttered face down or up each time someone throws it in the air. (except if attached on a cat). So for the pacifier, I don't know. Maybe your daughter attached it to a cat or maybe there are two nipple sides...
I am curious to see the answers.

Anonymous said...

I believe that many pacifiers fall nipple side up because the center of gravity of the pacifiers is in the handle side of the pacifiers, and not the nipple side. When pacifiers are dropped, they turn so that the heavier part of the pacifier leads in the fall. With these pacifiers, they therefore land with the nipple side up. It is likely that your daughter's favorite pacifier's center of gravity is on the nipple side of the pacifier, which is why it unfortunately lands nipple side down.

TracyZ

Jerome's wife said...

I never thought about it before, but if one drops a pacifier it WILL land with the nipple pointing upwards. It must have something to do with design and shape. Some pacifiers have a little handle on the back of the dish shaped mouth piece and I think that the handle would act as a balance and provide stability in making sure the nipple points upward; although its original purpose would be to aide in inserting and removing the pacifier from the baby's mouth. This little handle acts like a leg on a cardtable as the table lies on the floor on one side...the cardtable cannot lie flat. As long as the handle is there on the pacifier the dish shaped pacifier with nipple attached will always result in the nipple facing upwards when it rests on a surface. Even if there was not a little handle on the dish shaped mouth piece, the edges of the mouth piece would act as a deterrent in allowing the nipple to face downwards. At best the nipple could only lie on it's side if the constraints of the shape of the dish shaped mouth piece and any handle were removed.

Maria said...

Very funny link from Jerome about the battered cat paradox. Cat owners are advised to skip it. If a toast falls butter-side down and a cats always fall on their feet, what will happen if one attaches battered toast to a cat?

But I guess what Jerome meant to is the search for "Buttered toast phenomenon" in Wikipedia.
Apparently it all started from the poem published in New York Monthly in 1835:

Particularly large and wide,
That did not fall upon the floor,
And always on the buttered side!

Anne-Marie - the same page talks about attempts to prove and disprove it. It seems that if a toast falls from a table where it was placed butter-side-up, then it has just enough time to flip once, landing butter-side-down. Same when it falls from our hands. However, when a table is too high (above 3 feet), a toast will flip twice landing butter-side-up. Myth Busters and a BBC Q.E.D show apparently proven empirically that when a toast is thrown in the air it will fall butter-side-up or down with equal probabilities. It is written that butter doesn't really add too much weight to the toast. What a disappointment! I wonder how much butter they put. Those of us who come from Russia, put quite a lot to flip it;) And what about peanut butter?

Ok, now to pacifiers. I agree with TracyZ and Jerome who think that handle in most of the pacifiers has more weight than a nipple, forcing the handle-down fall. In fact, my daughter's favorite pacifier is all rubbery without a heavier plastic handle and likely to fall nipple-down just because of that.

Mary (Jerome's wife) brings interesting point about ergonomic design and wide brim contributing to leaf-like floating and prevention of too many flips in the air.

If you happen to have a pacifier at home - let it fall from your hands and send me a pic of it lying on a floor to my email. I will include it in the set of images above. This will help us see whether center of mass theory is indeed valid.

Maria said...

Of course - a puzzle point for each of you who answered!