October 31, 2003

O Banana, How Slippery Art Thou?

Banana peels are ridiculously famous for causing people to slip and fall. We've been exposed to this notion our entire lives, but I have never actually slipped on one. I have yet to even come close to slipping on one. I don't even know anybody who has slipped on one.

I started wondering just how slippery are banana peels? Do they even warrant this notorious reputation?

I decided to do a little experiment to measure the relative slipperiness of banana peels in comparison to other fruit peels and items.

You may feel that I am not suited to conduct such a science experiment, given that I'm only a writer. If so, I would like to point out that not only did I marry a physics teacher, but I have also had SEX with her.

Following her suggestions, we decided to use a spring scale to measure the force of friction created by a banana peel on a given surface (my dining room table). My sneaker was used to provide a uniform source of weight on the items we were measuring, and my son's toy truck was used to provide a constant source of motion to pull them. Coincidentally, my son was used to provide a constant source of tears until he could have his truck back.


Banana Peel (Inside): I decided to start with the banana peel, white inside-part face down. The force of friction was 1.96 Newtons. This is the benchmark. I scientifically arrived at this number by very carefully calculating how to get my wife to do it.

Shoe: The force of friction created by the sneaker alone -- no banana peel at all, was 4.51 Newtons! We are off to an interesting start. The inside of a banana peel is definitely more slippery than not stepping on one at all. In fact, it is 43% more slippery.

Banana Peel (outside): I then flipped the banana peel over and tested the friction created by the yellow outside of the peel. The friction registered at 5.00 N! That's not only much LESS slippery than the inside of the peel, it's actually 11% MORE stable than the sole of my sneaker.

At first I thought that was pretty cool, but then I realized if I were actually to step on it yellow side down, I'd still be stepping directly ON the slippery inside of the peel and land on my ass. But if I could only make a shoe with banana peel soles, (yellow-side down) -- I'd never fall again! They don't even have a word yet for that level of irony.

Bagel: I next tested a sesame bagel. Shockingly it was MORE slippery than the so-called "slippery banana peel." It measured only .834 N of friction which is a whopping 57% MORE slippery. I was beginning to wonder if the Banana Peel just happened to have a good P.R. person.

While you should still keep an eye out for banana peels, you should definitely keep an even bigger eye out for sesame bagels. (Especially if you are jogging, walking, or on Atkins.)

Lemon: A lemon peel was just slightly more slippery than a banana peel by 5%, coming in with a force of friction of 1.86 N.

Meat: According to my measurments, a slice of roast beef is also 5% MORE likely to make you slip than a banana peel. It is, however, 80% more likely to end up packed in your colon. (The same can be said of Richard Simmons.)

Diaper: Finally I tested a Huggies for Newborns. It was the by far the most slippery of the items with a .589 N force of friction. This diaper was clean. For those of you curious about how slippery a dirty diaper is, I formally invite you to test that on your own dining room table, and let me know.

Sadly (and gladly), I had no more Pickled Pork Rinds left to test.

I think we have learned that while a banana peel is somewhat slippery, it's not really that much more slippery than anything else that is somewhat slippery.

Why this thing is famous at all is a mystery to me -- not banana peels -- Ashlee Simpson. Seriously, I don't get it. Maybe my next experiment will be to figure that out.

Until then, I do hope you enjoyed The Sneeze's first foray into the exciting world of half-assed science. If you prefer fun science that uses its whole ass, I strongly suggest you check out the brilliance going on at the Cockeyed.com Science Club.

Click here for The Sneeze Home Page!
Posted by Steven | Archive