The coin toss. It's the one element of pure chance in a contest of physical skill and it can give the winner an initial edge, choosing whether to defend or receive.
Which team gets that choice is a matter of luck or pure chance.
The organizers of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl this weekend have given this ritual a new twist. Instead of a coin, Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana will start things off by tossing a Kraft food product--an oreo cookie, one side vanilla, the other chocolate.
It got us to wondering. With a coin you should get a 50-50 even chance, but does that hold for an oreo cookie?
It sounded like a question for some young scientists.
which is why we were at Hug High School Friday morning to put the question before Jeff Phillips' physics class.
Was the oreo a reliably neutral arbitrator of fate?
Was there some way that answer could tilt the odds toward the Wolf Pack?
It called for an exercise in empirical inquiry.
First question, were both sides of the oreo equal? The creamy filling was carefully scraped from several. The separated wafers weighed.
As it turned out, in this small sample, all cookies were not quite equal, though the differences were measured in the hundredths of a gram.
Not enough, perhaps to matter.
It was time to toss.
Initially there was a question of technique.
Actually, the rules allow everything from a thumb flip to an open hand toss.
We don't know which Joe Montana will favor, but we saw both, repeatedly.
The oreos were tossed and tossed again, a tally being kept with each landing. It quickly took a toll on the objects of the experiment. Cookies were retired after shedding crumbs.
Some were sacrificed for science, some for a sweet tooth, gobbled by the students, one thing you couldn't do with a coin.
The results were tabulated.
After more than 150 tosses, a slight 55-45 edge to vanilla.
But the verdict from the students: "50-50" It didn't matter.
Science classes at Cold Springs Middle School took it all the way to more than 5,700 tosses with the chocolate side posting an even slighter 51-49 edge.
So, take these results and do with them what you will Coach Ault. Just bring us a victory.
Go Wolf Pack!