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January 07, 2010

This household item is, on average, 2.7 years old.

Yesterday on one of the morning radio shows that Lisa and I listen to on the way to work, this puzzle was posed: What household item is, on average, 2.7 years old? [1]

I thought it might be some kind of semi-durable good, like a TV. But, I was wrong. The answer was salad dressing. Yuck! [2]

Oh, and happy new year! Since my first entry of 2010 is about nutrition (kind of), let me end on a positive note by recommending Michael Pollan's new bite-sized book "Food Rules: An Eater's Manual", which he recently promoted on The Daily Show:

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[1] Apparently, this question was asked on a lot of radio shows around the same time (here, here, and here), so it probably has a common source...

[2] It's not clear to me that this isn't some kind of urban legend (or even just a made up fact), but it does seem superficially plausible... If we take it at face value, a corollary would be that many people have 5 year old salad dressing in their fridge, and some salad dressing is even older (which would be necessary to balance the the probably more numerous bottles that are less than 2.7 years old; some people, after all, actually use salad dressing regularly). An alternative explanation, though, would be that the salad dressing you buy at the grocery store is already pretty old when you buy it.

posted January 7, 2010 09:19 AM in Humor | permalink


It's interesting that the question was phrased in "inverse problem" form. It's not like we should expect the answer to be unique.

(I've now committed to attending the Maryland networks workshop, by the way.)

Posted by: Mason Porter at January 8, 2010 08:05 PM

Yeah. Most of these kinds of questions on morning radio shows are framed like this. People call in with all sorts of answers, and if it sounds good, the radio person will say "oh, that's a good guess, but it's not it".

Glad to hear I'll see you at Maryland!

Now it's back to revising my modularity degeneracies paper...

Posted by: Aaron at January 11, 2010 08:56 PM

Yuck! I just looked in the Door of my Fridge and of the 20+ bottles of dressing we have, over 1/2 of them are OVER a year past their expiration Date. Who would have thought?
Paulette Dawson

Posted by: Chocolate Gourmet Truffles at January 18, 2010 08:37 AM