Thursday, 26 December 2013

Have you lost a spoon at work?

Doing my annual Christmas clean of my kitchen, I found 7 forks, 4 spoons and 1 knife that I never bought. Where on Earth did these spoons come from? Is my kitchenware breeding and evolving? On the other hand, my cutlery always goes missing from work, so much so that I have stopped keeping it in communal areas.

A 2005 paper, The case of the disappearing teaspoons: longitudinal cohort study of the displacement of teaspoons in an Australian research institute, casts a light on my problem. It set out to determine the overall rate of loss of teaspoons in a research institute of 140 people and whether how quickly they disappear depends on the value of the teaspoons or type of tearoom. They conducted a longitudinal cohort study by placing 70 discreetly numbered teaspoons in tearooms around the institute and observed the results over five months.

They found that 56 of the 70 teaspoons disappeared during the five month study. The half life of the teaspoons was 81 days, with the half life of teaspoons in large communal tearooms (42 days) significantly shorter. At this rate, an estimated 250 teaspoons would need to be purchased annually to maintain an institute-wide population of 70 teaspoons.

So it looks like I may have contributed to this problem at my workplace. On the other hand, a percentage of my own cutlery must now be in the kitchens of my workmates.

References:

Megan S C Lim (2005). The case of the disappearing teaspoons: longitudinal cohort study of the displacement of teaspoons in an Australian research institute BMJ DOI: 10.1136/bmj.331.7531.1498

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