Science You Can Use

Some wizard-smart scientists at Clemson University have published a paper about the “5-second rule”:

Accompanied by six graphs, two tables and equations whose terms include “bologna” and “carpet,” it’s a thorough microbiological study of the five-second rule: the idea that if you pick up a dropped piece of food before you can count to five, it’s O.K. to eat it.

(That summary is from a New York Times story about said research.)

I’ve always been middle of the road about this: Too prudish to employ the 5-second rule, unless it’s something really delectable, but not so nose-out-of-joint as a certain acquaintance of mine, an obsessive germophobe whose 10-minute coffee mug scrubbing sessions are legend. So yeah, I’m watching this one. Can I pick up that stray bit of Mars Bar, or what?

Guess what, kids? Some salmonella lived for 28 days! And as you might predict, some of said oldest living Samonellans glommed onto various food items.

The rule of thumb? “Quick retrieval does mean fewer bacteria, but it’s no guarantee of safety.” Oh, and “The infectious dose, the smallest number of bacteria that can actually cause illness, is as few as 10 for some salmonellas, fewer than 100 for the deadly strain of E. coli.”

Eww.

Now,  let’s hope them scientists go onto the other really pressing questions, like why motorists will cut you off with no warning, but signal their intent to exit the freeway when there’s no one behind them for a half-mile.

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