Calculating The Speed Of Mess
    By Garth Sundem | November 14th 2010 09:09 AM | 5 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    Garth Sundem is a Science, Math and general Geek Culture writer, TED speaker, and author of books including Brain Trust: 93 Top Scientists Dish the...

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    JonathanLiuMessEquations relating speed and mass go back to Newton and beyond.

    But what about relating speed and MESS?

    Simply, how fast should you expect a clean kids' room to get messy?

    Friends Jonathan Liu and John Booth brought me the question and did the better part of the brainstorming and I did the factor slapping, to produce the collaborative equation below. Plug in your family's numbers to discover how many square feet per hour your kid's room will accumulate non-traversable junk. For the über geeks out there, keep reading below the equation for more mathematical sweetness you can do with the Speed of Mess.

    Here, for your practical use and cerebral edification is the mathematically certain (wink, wink) Speed of Mess:


    • K#= The number of kids playing in the room

    • KA= The average age of K#

    • KB1= Is one of K# a boy between ages 6 and 13? Enter 1 for yes and 0 for no.

    • KB2= Enter age of boy between 6 and 13. These are the planet's messiest beasts.

    • F= Fodder: Generally, how much junk (toys, clothes, books, reptiles, etc.) does your child's room contain? 1-10 with 10 being Lloyd from the show Hoarders

    • N= In days, the newness of any single game, toy, or book

    • PE= Parental energy: 1-10 with 1 being "new baby" and 10 being "methamphetamines"

    • PS= Parental strictness: 1-10 with 10 being Sir, yes sir! and 1 being Duuuude!

    • T= In Fahrenheit, the temperature outdoors (add 25 "degrees" for sleddable snow)

    • S= Storage: 1-10 with 10 being wire bins to the ceilings and ample closet space and 1 being bare, padded room (though let me also point out the usefulness of the latter)

    • C= Percentage of occupied time in which K are using a computer, TV, game console or other screen-based entertainment

    SOM is the square feet per hour that your kids' room will collect mess that precludes passage. Max for three, 10-year-old boys with no storage, lax, exhausted parents and lots o' stuff is 85.33 ft^2/hr and min for one, 17-year-old with strict, energetic parents, with little stuff and ample storage (on a nice day, etc.) is 0.21 ft^2/hr.

    Further mathematical sweetness:

    Notice that the speed of mess is like a velocity. By calculating "velocities" for each hour in a single day and summing these velocities, you could discover how many square feet of junk accumulates per day (those willing to get down with calc could do it more accurately). Then, using the total area of the room and the percentage coverage at which point you go batty, you could calculate how often you need to instigate a massive cleaning effort (MCE). There's lotsa other cool stuff you could do with SOM—any suggestions?

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    What if you are the parents of 2 girls? Girls are just as prone to mess creation as boys without constant and energetic parental intervention.

    Garth Sundem
    In general I agree—the term 20-Ka is unisex—though I added a quick spike for the phenomenon of the 11 year old boy, which I thought was a messy creature without compare. Still young enough to create massive mess quickly, but just old enough to resist cleaning it. Actually, as an 11-yo I once had a mouse running around my room at night--I flattened it with a textbook and went back to sleep. I don't want to admit how long it took to pick up said book and clean said mouse. Disgusting, yes. Commonplace among 11yo boys...yes, too.

    Garth Sundem, TED speaker, Wipeout loser and author of Brain Trust

    Given that mess pretty much equates to chaos, perhaps it could be written as

    E = mc2

    Where E = energy, m = mass, and c2 = chaos squared

    I find 11 year olds, of either sex, have about that amount of energy

    That ain't speed (ft/hr), that's diffusivity (ft^2/hr). Get your units right Geek Sundem! ;)

    Garth Sundem
    Word up. But somehow "Calculating the Diffusivity of Mess" just didn't have the same ring to it...

    Garth Sundem, TED speaker, Wipeout loser and author of Brain Trust