Thursday, December 24, 2009

Science solves Christmas dinner novelty problem

For those not in the know Wikipedia offers this description of Christmas crackers:

Christmas crackers or bon-bons are an integral part of Christmas celebrations in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and other Commonwealth countries as well as countries of the former Soviet Union (where it is called "хлопушка"). A cracker consists of a cardboard tube wrapped in a brightly decorated twist of paper, making it resemble an oversized sweet-wrapper. The cracker is pulled by two people, and, much in the manner of a wishbone, the cracker splits unevenly. The split is accompanied by a small bang produced by the effect of friction on a chemically impregnated card strip (similar to that used in a cap gun).

In one version of the tradition the person with the larger portion of cracker empties the contents from the tube and keeps them. In another each person will have their own cracker and will keep its contents regardless of whose end they were in. Typically these contents are a coloured paper hat or crown; a small toy or other trinket and a motto, a joke or piece of trivia on a small strip of paper. Crackers are often pulled before or after Christmas dinners or at parties.

Scientists having suffered the indignity of getting the short end of the cracker were keen that they should never again eat Christmas dinner hatless so they applied themselves to the "problem". Hundreds of man-hours later:

British researchers say they have devised a guaranteed method of pulling crackers, to avoid disappointment at the dinner table this Christmas.

The researchers say the method for always winning the long end of the cracker, and therefore the prize inside, is in the angle that you grip it.

They have released a mathematical formula to follow to guarantee success.

The formula, O11xC/L+5xQ, is based on the angle, grip and quality of the cracker.

You must first multiply the circumference of the cracker in inches (C) by 11 before dividing that number by the length (L) of the barrel.

Take that total and add it to the figure you get when you multiply the quality (Q) by five.

The quality is either one, two or three, depending on whether the cracker is cheap, standard or premium.

The formula ought to produce a figure between 20 and 55 degrees, which is the optimum pulling angle (O).

The cracker should also be pulled one inch from the end of the tail, newspapers said.

As if drunken holiday-makers will be carrying a micrometer, a protractor and a calculator. Just pull the God-damned thing, hope for the best and ask for a top-up on your wine.


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