The following is an article from the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research. Not actual science.
by Antoni Chan, Ithaca, New York Benjamin Stein, New York, New York Kenneth Bromberg, New York, New York
After purchasing six-packs of soda cans or beer cans, must we cut the plastic rings that hold the cans together? People say that if we discard these rings without first cutting them, birds and fish will get caught in them and die. We decided to test that claim.
The 6-Pack Safety Hypothesis
Is there really a significant problem? Does our environment -- and the survival of several species -- hinge on us snipping these plastic rings? Our goal was to prove that fish and birds will not get caught in 6-pack rings.
To do this, we used baited 6-pack rings to try our hardest to catch a bird or a fish.
To purchase supplies for this experiment, we went to our local grocery store, the Ithaca Farmer’s Market. We noticed that outside the store there are both birds in the trees and fish in the water.
Here is a list of the equipment we used:
* 1 set of rings from a 6-pack of soda
* 1 worm (to use as bait for fish)
* bread (to use as bait for birds)
* string, a rock and a stick (for fishing rod)
* potato chips (to snack on while we waited)
And here is a cost analysis of our research project.
stale bread free
bag of chips free
The Fish Experiment: Procedure
We then prepared the equipment by drinking all of the soda from both 6-packs. In retrospect, it seems we could have skipped this step. After downing twelve sodas, we were left with just the 6-pack ring.
Next we needed to bait our rings with worms. You might be surprised at how squirmy these worms are, but after a while we managed to get them tied securely into the rings.
We then obtained some string, a stick, and a rock, which we used to build a nifty fishing rod, Huck Finn style. Then we traveled to the docks to test our hypothesis. The Ithaca Farmer’s Market had a very nice pier, which we used.
The Fish Experiment: Results
We spent three hours fishing, and didn’t catch a damn thing. Part One of our hypothesis holds true. Fish do not get easily caught in 6-pack rings.
The Bird Experiment: Procedure
After failing to catch a single fish, we tried to catch a bird. We figured it would be much easier to catch a bird than to catch a fish. Birds are much less slippery than fish.
We baited the rings with stale bread, which is well known for being the best thing to feed birds.
We then found a low-hanging bird’s nest in a tree. There were babies inside, so we were sure the mother bird would be thrilled to have free food nearby. We hung the trap in the tree and waited.
An hour later, nothing had happened. This was horrible. We couldn’t catch a bird for the life of us.
We then tried a new approach. We laid the trap on the ground. Then we made a trail of crumbs on the ground leading towards the trap.
At first we were really excited because birds came right to the trail of crumbs and started following it down to the trap. But alas, they never got caught in the trap.
The Bird Experiment: Results
We spent two hours bird hunting, and didn’t catch a damn thing. Part Two of our hypothesis holds true. Birds do not get easily caught in 6-pack rings.
The myth is false. Birds and fish do not get caught in 6-pack rings. You can stop the laborious process of cutting them up. From now on you will never have to cut them up. Think of how much time you’ll save!
This article is republished with permission from the May-June 2005 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift!
Visit their website for more research that makes people LAUGH and then THINK.