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Flipping for the buttered toast phenomenon theory

    Free close up slice of bread with butter image, public domain food CC0 photo.

    Have you ever noticed that when buttered toast falls, it somehow manages to land butter-side down? This phenomenon has become a popular idiom for pessimism. There was a time when people believed that dropping toast meant it would always land butter-side down, but research has proven otherwise. 21,000 pieces of toast were flipped in the name of research to see if the old idiom was indeed true. A standard bag of sliced bread contains 20-24 slices of bread. So, over 950 bags of bread were used for this silly experiment.

    I never had a slice of bread,
    Particularly large and wide,
    That did not fall upon the floor,
    And always on the buttered side!

    Studies have shown that when thrown in the air, toast only lands with the butter side down 50% of the time. However, dropping toast from a table has a greater chance of landing butter-side down. In fact, Robert Matthews‘ research on this topic earned him the Ig Nobel Prize for physics in 1996.

    Toast Puns

    Another study conducted in 2001 with more than 1,000 schoolchildren and 21,000 pieces of toast confirmed the theory that toast falling off a plate will land butter-side down almost two-thirds of the time. This outcome is not due to the buttered side being heavier, as commonly thought. Rather, when the toast goes over the edge of the plate, it begins to rotate, but the spin is not fast enough to bring the buttered side back up before it hits the floor. No children or toast were harmed during the scientific research.

    When butter is added to a slice of toast, its weight can alter the way it falls due to the butter spreading. As the toast falls, it possesses inertia, which causes it to continue spinning until it hits the ground. The amount of inertia is based on the toast’s flipping speed, size, and weight, and it is only stopped when it hits the ground. Since most toast is uniform in shape, they typically land in a similar way.

    Fun Fact: French toast was not invented in France. In fact, French toast was around long before France even existed as a country. The exact origins of French toast are unknown.