'Where have all the bloody teaspoons gone?'

December 25, 2005
teaspoons

"Where have all the bloody teaspoons gone?" is an age old question in the workplace. In this week's BMJ, researchers at the Burnet Institute in Australia attempt to measure the phenomenon of teaspoon loss and its effect on office life.

They purchased and discreetly numbered 70 stainless steel teaspoons (54 of standard quality and 16 of higher quality). The teaspoons were placed in tearooms around the institute and were counted weekly over five months.

After five months, staff were told about the research project and asked to complete a brief anonymous questionnaire about their attitudes towards and knowledge of teaspoons and teaspoon theft.

During the study, 56 (80%) of the 70 teaspoons disappeared. The half life of the teaspoons was 81 days (that is, half had disappeared permanently after that time). The half life of teaspoons in communal tearooms (42 days) was significantly shorter than those in rooms linked to particular research groups (77 days).

The rate of loss was not influenced by the teaspoons' value and the overall incidence of teaspoon loss was 360.62 per 100 teaspoon years. At this rate, an estimated 250 teaspoons would need to be purchased annually to maintain a workable population of 70 teaspoons, say the authors.

The questionnaire showed that most employees (73%) were dissatisfied with teaspoon coverage in the institute, suggesting that teaspoons are an essential part of office life. The rapid rate of teaspoon loss shows that their availability (and therefore office life) is under constant assault.

One possible explanation for the phenomenon is resistentialism (the theory that inanimate objects have a natural aversion to humans), they write. This is demonstrated by the fact that people have little or no control over teaspoon migration.

Given the widely applicable nature of these results, they suggest that the development of effective control measures against the loss of teaspoons should be a research priority.

Source: British Medical Journal

Explore further: Children should eat less than 25 grams of added sugars daily

Related Stories

Children should eat less than 25 grams of added sugars daily

August 22, 2016

Children ages 2 to 18 should eat or drink less than six teaspoons of added sugars daily, according to the scientific statement recommending a specific limit on added sugars for children, published in the American Heart Association ...

Does ecology reach all the way down to the subatomic scale?

August 16, 2016

Imagine you could stop being human-sized for a while and shrink down to the size of a bacterium, roughly one-millionth of your current stature. At this scale, you would stop being bound by gravity and instead discover that ...

FDA issues new guidelines on salt, pressuring food industry

June 1, 2016

The Obama administration is pressuring the food industry to make foods from breads to sliced turkey less salty, proposing long-awaited sodium guidelines in an effort to prevent thousands of deaths each year from heart disease ...

Taking the pulse of marine life in stressed seas

October 7, 2011

The Earth currently has more than 400 so-called "dead zones"--huge expanses of deep ocean that, because of human activities, become too oxygen-starved during the summer to support most life.

Recommended for you

Inferring urban travel patterns from cellphone data

August 29, 2016

In making decisions about infrastructure development and resource allocation, city planners rely on models of how people move through their cities, on foot, in cars, and on public transportation. Those models are largely ...

NASA team probes peculiar age-defying star

August 29, 2016

For years, astronomers have puzzled over a massive star lodged deep in the Milky Way that shows conflicting signs of being extremely old and extremely young.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.