Using Psychology To Get Back Your Lost Wallet

By Anupum Pant

Do you like to keep a picture of someone you love in your wallet? If the answer is no, you should probably start doing it. But, suppose you have a loved baby, adorable parents, cute puppy and grandparents at home, all of whom you love equally, whose picture do you think would be the best one to keep in your wallet?

Professor Richard Wiseman from University of Hertfordshire, a psychologist, decided to find out. He designed an experiment that would be conducted on the street and would help him figure out the answer to this tough choice.

An experiment on the street

He and his team dropped 240 wallets around the city of Edinburgh. Just to find out, how many of the wallets would be returned by the finders to their respective owners.

Not all the wallets were same. A few displayed picture of a cute baby, others had a picture of a puppy, some had a family picture and others contained an elderly couple’s portrait.

There were some other wallets dropped which contained a receipt suggesting how charitable the owner of that wallet was. These had no pictures in them.

Which one do you think won? Guess and read on…


Following were the return percentages of wallets:

  • I hope babies don’t get too much cute-aggression out of you because the ones with baby pictures – An incredible 88% of these wallets got returned!
  • Ones with the puppy pictures – 53% were returned.
  • Family portrait wallets – 48% came back.
  • With just 28% return percentage, the ones with the picture of an elderly couple fared the worst among all wallets that had pictures.
  • And only 15% of the wallets that enclosed a receipt and had no pictures were returned to their owners.

Moral (take it with a grain of salt)

If it doesn’t hurt, you could experiment with a cute baby’s picture in your wallet. Since it was tested in just one city, there is a great chance that you could get a different result in your area. If you don’t have one yet, find one on the WWW. The internet is full of them!

Getting back a lost wallet 88 times out of 100 times is big probability. What do you have to lose? A simple picture of a baby will pump up your chances of getting back the wallet by so many percentage points. Go, get one printed right now!

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Longest Continuously Running Experiment – 83 Years and Counting

By Anupum Pant

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An experiment so slow that a professor overseeing it, died without having seen the results for half a century! The Pitch Drop experiment, started by Professor Thomas Parnell of the University of Queensland in the year 1930, is the probably slowest science experiment and also holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s longest continuously running experiment ever.

What is the experiment?

It is an experiment designed to measure the flow of a solid looking piece (image) which is actually an extremely viscous liquid (actually a Viscoelastic Polymer) with a viscosity of approximately 230 billion times that of water. The name used for this class of extremely viscous liquids is, Pitch – Bitumen, Asphalt, Resin and Rosin are a few examples (not Glass). These things are so viscous that you can strike them with a hammer and see them shatter into sharp flakes (like glass), but it flows. The experiment is explained in detail, in the first few minutes of this radio show attached below. (the second half is pretty interesting too, but that is for some other day)

Other unbelievable materials previously covered in this series – Aerogels and Superhydrophobic surfaces.

Side note: The overseer of this experiment, Prof. John Mainstone actually lived through the drops of pitch falling three times, but unfortunately missed watching it happen every time (for 3 times in 50 years). In all, 8 drops have fallen since 1930.

  1. 1979 – He missed it because he wasn’t in the laboratory for the weekend.
  2. 1988 – Missed it because he went out for a tea break.
  3. 2000 – A camera was installed as a precautionary measure, the equipment malfunctioned; missed again!

He recently died waiting to see it in action. Since then, three web cameras have been installed as a fool proof measure to record the extremely rare event. You can watch it happening online here, although you might have to wait for several years to see it happening. (To confirm the live stream, look at that clock in in it and confirm with time here). There is also a time-lapse from 28th April 2012 – 10th April 2013 compressed into a 10-second-long video of the drop forming, embedded below.

A parallel experiment running at Trinity College, Dublin also wasn’t able to capture the rare scientific event on camera in spite of several drops falling since the commissioning of the experiment (1944). Finally, after 70 years of patient wait, on July 11, 2013 it was recorded on camera.