This week I wanted to talk about something I can’t help but find terribly amusing. About a month ago, the University of British Columbia released a study that says the concept of “Cow Tipping” is an urban legend and is not actually possible. I mentioned this is my LJ a few weeks ago, and several people swore they had friends of friends of friends do it, so it must be possible. Sound familiar? This is one of the big warning signs that something is in fact, and Urban Legend. No one said they actually did it. Just that they KNEW it actually happening. Much like the gazillion dollar cookie recipe, the Coke and Pop Rocks tale of poor Mikey from Life Cereal, and many others.
So how did this Canadian University manage to take a $50,000 grant from their government and turn it into proving that in fact, the pushing over of a bovine by hillbillies and rednecks was impossible? Let’s take a look with this image provided to me by the British Times.
Man, I bet you never thought you’d see Physics equations show up at Inside Pulse, did you? But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself and for those of you thankfully ignorant of what cow tipping is, I should go into a quick description of this farmbred pastime.
Cow tipping is when a bunch of morons, often heavily intoxicated drive out to a farm for one reason or another (did I mention the being very drunk part?) and creep into a farm where they stealthly approach a cow that is either sleeping or ignorant of their approach. Then they simply…push the cow over. The humans run off giggling and the cow is trapped parallel with the ground, wondering what the bloody hell happened.
Dr. Margo Lillie and Tracy Boechler, a forensic analyst for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Mounties. Like Dudley Do-Right!) were the writers of the paper and analysis proving that cow tipping was a virtual impossibility. Ms. Boechler’s research states that it would take five people to muster the required force in order to push over the average cow standing perfectly still. Almost all the claims of cow tipping have involved only 2-3 people and I’m been unable to find any accounts having the required five or more people running around together with the intention of smacking a cow down. Then factoring in the chance of getting five humans to actually sneak up on a cow from the side of a cow and not from behind certainly does add credence to the physics and math done by these two Canadians to prove this activity was in fact, a myth told by people who needed a good story.
From the paper:
A cow of 1.45 metres in height pushed at an angle of 23.4 degrees relative to the ground would require 2,910 Newtons of force, equivalent to 4.43 people,
Dr. Lillie added her own variation to the commentary on cow tipping stating that two people could push over a cow on their own, but only if the cow was rigid and unmoving.
The real problem with this is that cows don’t sleep on their feet. That’s an erroneous belief. And really, the only way to catch a cow unaware and trying to push it over without them reacting would really involve the cow being asleep. It is true however, cows do take cat naps while standing, so that would be the likeliest chance of success in order to actually perform a cow tipping. But even THEN, cows do not lock their legs up while sleeping as horses do, meaning it would be far easier to tip over a horse than a cow. (Don’t get any ideas people.) As well, the cow version of a “Cat nap” does not enter an REM or dreamlike state so they will easily awaken from any strange noises or smell. Coupling that with the fact cows have a wider range of vision than people, and possess superior hearing and olfactory senses, you can begin to see the overwhelming factors that prevent cow tipping from being a possibility.
Ms. Boechler did include in her study that she has heard of people trying to tip a cow, but knows none directly. And like myself, says that most people who should could get in contact with that claimed to have tried cow tipping failed due to being too loud and/or too drunk.
Another good quote from the Times article:
Newton’s second law of motion, force equals mass multiplied by acceleration, shows that the high acceleration necessary to tip the cow would require a higher force. “Biology also complicates the issue here because the faster the [human] muscles have to contract, the lower the force they can produce. But I suspect that even if a dynamic physics model suggests cow tipping is possible, the biology ultimately gets in the way: a cow is simply not a rigid, unresponding body.”
Of course, when this was printed, there was immediately people claiming that this study was erroneous and that cow tipping was in fact possible. The University of Nebraska immediately set up a study to show it is possible for two people to tip over a cow. I really should insert a joke that Nebraska was trying to prove this, but it’s just too easy. However, the problem with this mathematical study fails to take one large thing into effect: it clings to the fallacy that cows sleep standing up, thus negating its legitimacy.
Of course, like most Urban Legends, it’s when authority figures and respectable types fall for the myth that it continues to be spread through society as legitimate. Just last year Florida tried banning cow tipping. Of course, they’re also the same state that banned dwarf tossing in 1998, so this tells you the level of intelligence most Florida public servants appear to have.
Okay, that last comment was me just being swarmy. After all, the United Nations has banned Dwarf Tossing, so why not Florida?
So as we’ve seen, Cow Tipping has been pretty much debunked. And although Dr. Lillie and Ms. Boechler study has been getting a great deal of international attention, the truth is, cow tipping has been debunked as an urban legend for about twenty years. Pick up any book on Urban Legends or talk to folklorists who have been in the field from the 1980’s on and they’ll concur with this.
The real clincher of course is that when it comes to actual physical or photographical evidence of cow tipping being performed, there is none. No one has video footage of a cow being tipped. Nor is there even photographical. Even the Loch Ness Monster and the Yeti have (faked) photographs of them. So when math and zoology state cow tipping is impossible, and those still claiming that it is possible only have third or fourth hand stories as their aspect of credibility, there’s little chance of cow tipping ever being debunked as a non Urban Legend any time soon.
Now I’m just waiting for Canada to give someone a grant to actually try a field study of cow tipping, instead of just math and physics equations…
I had a lovely smores fondue with Gloomchen and Matt Yaeger (fellow IP staffers) Saturday and Gloomchen asked me how they made marshmallows anyway. So I decided, what better thing to put into this week’s cooking column than this very question.
I’ll be honest though. I’ve never made them. I pulled this recipe from Gourmet Magazine. But never let it be said that your Sub-Cultural Icon doesn’t give credit where it’s due.
About 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 1/2 envelopes (2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup hot water (about 115 degrees)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla
1. Oil bottom and sides of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch rectangular metal baking pan and dust bottom and sides with some confectioners’ sugar.
2. In bowl of standing electric mixer or in a large bowl sprinkle gelatin over cold water and let stand to soften.
3. In a 3-quart heavy saucepan cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, hot water, and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to moderate and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240 degrees, about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.
4. With standing or a hand-held electric mixer beat mixture on high speed until white, thick and nearly tripled in volume, about 6 minutes if using standing mixer or about 10 minutes if using hand-held mixer. In a large bowl with cleaned beaters beat whites (or reconstituted powdered whites) until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat whites and vanilla into sugar mixture until just combined. Pour mixture into baking pan and sift 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar evenly over top. Chill marshmallow, uncovered, until firm, at least three hours, and up to 1 day.
5. Run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert pan onto large cutting board. Lifting up 1 corner of inverted pan, with fingers loosen marshmallow and let drop onto cutting board. With a large knife trim edges of marshmallow and cut marshmallows into roughly 1-inch cubes. Sift remaining confectioners’ sugar into a large bowl and add marshmallows in batches, tossing to evenly coat. Marshmallows keep in an airtight container at cool room temperature 1 week.
So there you go! Another culinary mystery solved!
In Wrestling Eric S. will be happy to learn that as Lex Luger was incarcerated here in Minneapolis, Gloomchen and I tried to visit him. Alas, we were unsuccessful. Oh, and the WWE needs to stop picking on Brock Lesnar.
In Culture, Sara reviews Freaknomics, Mark reviews The Hallowed Hunt, Rebecca talks about Japanese Christmas.
In Games, Lee reviews Dragon Warrior VIII, and Widro reviews Guitar Hero.
In Music, read Gloomchen and Aaron Cameron covers Issac Hayes.
In Movies, ML Kennedy mocks Moulin Rogue, and Daniels enjoyed RENT.
In Comics< Brian Michael Bendis isn’t dead yet and the world weeps that he’s allowed to continue writing. Meanwhile Jason Todd makes Batman cry
And that my friends, is it for this week. I’ll see you next Monday with more folkloric shenanigans.