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January 15, 2007
Volume 85, Number 03
p. 72

CD-Eating Fungus

I once threw a Courtney Love album from a moving vehicle because it was so terrible it deserved it. Instead of littering, perhaps I should have exposed it to a compact-disc-eating FUNGUS. According to BBC News, a geologist at the Museum of Natural History in Madrid has discovered such an organism—which belongs to the Geotrichum family—on CDs brought back from Belize.

The fungus had rendered the CD unplayable by attacking the outer edge of the disc, overtaking the plastic and aluminum. Think your CDs could be at risk? Not to worry, scientists believe the fungus would only eat CDs under certain conditions, including high temperature and humidity.


Calculating Pi

Mathematicians have come up with hundreds of ways to CALCULATE PI. Calculations usually include the law of cosines, the Pythagorean theorem, and a boatload of other jargon that can be hard to comprehend. However, the website www.wikihow.com serves up an entirely different-and tastier- approach to calculating pi that everyone's inner child will enjoy: throwing frozen hot dogs.

To conduct this experiment, all you need is a ruler, 10 frozen hot dogs, measuring tape, paper, and a pencil.

Step 1: Measure the length of your hot dogs, being as accurate as possible.

Step 2: Lay down six to 10 strips of masking tape parallel across the floor as far apart as your hot dog is long. Make sure the strips are perpendicular to the direction you are throwing.

Step 3: Grab a piece of paper and make a column for "tosses" and another for "crosses." The tosses column keeps track of how many times you throw your hot dog; the crosses column keeps track of how many times your item is across one of the lines.

Step 4: Ready, aim, throw hot dogs! Once the thrown hot dog has stopped rolling, note if it is crossing one of the lines. If it is, put a mark under "crosses," and a mark under "tosses" on your paper. If it isn't, just put a mark under "tosses." Repeat this process as many times as you like.

Step 5: Once you have grown weary of throwing hot dogs, multiply the number of tosses by two and divide by the number of crosses. For example, if you threw 500 times and it crossed 320 times, you would calculate (500 x 2)/320. Et voilá! You now have an approximation for pi. Note: You may or may not want to keep the hot dogs, depending upon how clean your floor is.

For a more detailed description of the rules, as well as reasons not to use bananas for the experiment, visit www.wikihow.com/Calculate-Pi-by-Throwing-Frozen-Hot-Dogs. For the mathematically inclined, the proof and other details of this experiment can be found at mathworld.wolfram.com/BuffonsNeedleProblem.html.

Wake up on time

Need 30 hours in a day? Who doesn't? While no one has invented a way to extend time, New Jersey-based Rise-N-Shine has developed a way to PERK YOU UP in the morning, even on little sleep. Wake Up On Time is a dietary supplement to be taken immediately before bedtime. Magic ingredients include a plethora of B vitamins, as well as Siberian ginseng, guarana seed extract, and L-tyrosine.

The patent-pending supplement is a time-release tablet that has a distinct Elmer's glue odor. The night I decided to play guinea pig and test the product, I popped the pills before going to bed at 1 AM and woke up to my alarm clock five hours later. The product didn't make me any happier to be awake or keep me from drinking 22 oz of coffee before 8:30 AM. It did, however, reinforce the fact that the best prescription for curing morning tiredness is a solid eight hours of sleep.

This week's column was written by Faith Hayden. Please send comments and suggestions to newscripts@acs.org.