The Amateur Mad Scientist: Quarter-Ton Tomato

You may have noticed that front-loading washing machines are rapidly eclipsing the top-loading agitator variety that was once popular. This is a good thing for two reasons: front-loaders save on water, which is obviously good in these environmentally-conscious times. And two: they allow me to perform all manner of extremely unwise experiments. For you see, my 1985 vintage GE washer, original to my 1985 domicile, finally died. And now, I am equipped with a snazzy new front-loader. It uses a high-speed spin cycle to centrifuge the water out of clothes. It’s really quite hypnotic to watch. And, when it’s spinning at full speed, a little scary. For you see, according to the manual, the drum’s maximum spin speed is 1200 RPM. Yes. 1200 RPM. That’s twenty revolutions per second. Holy shit!

Before I go on to the really unwise part of the experiment, let’s do some quick math. Now, I measured a drum diameter of about two feet, which comes out to a radius of, let’s say, one foot. According to other sources, the maximum spin speed of a washer like mine is 900 RPM. To be on the safe side, let’s assume that, at maximum speed, the drum spins at somewhere between 600 RPM (10 RPS) and 1200 RPM (20 RPS). Centripetal acceleration is given by radius times the square of the angular velocity. Therefore, at 600 RPM, the outer edge of the drum is experiencing a centripetal acceleration of 1.203 kilometers per second per second, or about 122 gees. At 1200 RPM, the acceleration is a terrifying 490 gees. That is to say, under the most conservative estimate, my washing machine generates a hundred and twenty times earth’s surface gravity. I say again: holy shit. And I’d like to add: holy fuck!

Now, the first time I did this calculation, I started having all kinds of unwise ideas. I started wondering if I had any sufficiently compact friends I could coerce into climbing into the drum. I started scouring my neighborhood for particularly troublesome squirrels. Ultimately, I decided to test a tomato. I happened to have some tomatoes that were just moldy enough that I was afraid to eat them. Here’s our test subject:


Now, regular readers will be fully aware of the fact that I am insane. But my insanity has its limits. You see, as fun as it is to centrifuge fruits to death in a washing machine, I realized that at some point in the future I might like to do some laundry in my washing machine. That didn’t stop me from proceeding, by any means, but I decided that a watertight container was probably necessary.

I stuck the container in the drum, closed everything up, set the washer for a “Spin and Drain” cycle, and got ready. Our brave test subject had no comment, but he looked about as terrified as a tomato in a plastic bowl can.

I was a little nervous as the washer spun up to full speed. But I discovered that even my cheap-ass camera could take unblurred photos of the drum, which allowed me to confirm that the bowl hadn’t exploded everywhere and voided my warranty.

Notice the way the duct tape curves down towards the center of the lid. It wasn’t doing that when I first put it in. I guess that’s the effect of approximately 100-300 gees (remember, the force is less on the lid because the lid is closer to the drum’s center). But the container valiantly took the abuse. The same cannot be said for the tomato.

HOLY SHIT! Imagine that was your spleen or your brain or something. I’m glad I didn’t talk any of my cousins into that drum… Because 490 gees turns a 1-pound tomato into a 500-pound tomato (quarter-ton tomato! Get it! …sorry…) If I’d talked my 120-pound cousin into taking its place, that’d be 60,000 freakin’ pounds. But then, I might seriously void my warranty, so I’m glad I didn’t.