RSR Rendez-vous April 1998
Bubbles, tiny bubbles.
Recent warm temperatures (this is written in February after all) made us all think about spring. You know, that time of year when the tulips and Porsches bloom. Of course by the time you read this me may be buried in snow and we’ll all be figuring ways to turbo charge our snow blowers but I digress..
Most of you know that I’m “into” tires. Of our annual Porsche related expenses, tires are at the top of the list. I’m always looking for the best traction and wear. Something that adheres to Mt-Tremblant’s particular surface is high on my list.
Did you know that many if not most of the world’s inventions came about by accident. How about 3M and those wonderful post-it-notes? The 3M guys were trying to make a better glue. Their failure turned out to be a lot more useful than just another adhesive.
Something similar happened to me last month while I was walking in a shopping mall. Suddenly my right foot was stuck to the polished floor. Lifting hard resulted in a “snaaaaaaaaack” sound and then ‘konk-ouch” which was when my knee hit my face.
Now an ordinary person might have said *!#$!!%^! and muttered a few words describing the cretin who left bubble gum on the floor. I said “ouch!” and then I said $#@!%*&!! and also &^(#@!!! (the former being in French the latter in English as is the law here).
As fate would have it, a watering hole was nearby and since it was past 5 (in England) I sipped a beer while trying to get the $#@!! bubble gum off my shoe. I was really surprised at how tenacious the stuff was. It stuck to my rubber soles like glue.
“Eureka” I shouted. By now people in the bar were looking at me nervously and moving farther away. Scientific Philistines I suppose, or maybe they’re not used to people yelling Greek words. Still the ones closest to me began to sidle away, like I was a nut or something.
Obviously I had discovered a marvelous traction enhancing substance! Distracted, I wandered out into the mall. Then I rushed back in to pay for my beer. Obviously the bar-keep didn’t share my enthusiasm for discovery. Of all the names he used to call me back, “inventor” was missing.
I began testing the “stick-tion” on various surfaces. I already knew it stuck to rubber and to that drab cement with polished gravel they use on mall floors. When I tried it on a wooden bench I realized I’d made a mistake. I couldn’t get it off. I needed this-particular-kind of gum. This was the mother-of-all-sticky-gums. I upended a coffee cup over the spot (to protect my sample from harm) and set off to buy a more. How hard could it be? Pink gum is pink gum right?
I was astounded at how many kinds of bubble gum you can buy. Not knowing which one I had , I bought two of everything. Twenty minutes and exactly $32.14 later (I’m saving my receipts ‘cuz I’m sure this qualifies as a tax write off) I had my stock. I also had a lot of kids following me, like I was the Pied Piper or something.
Rushing back to the bench, I saw to my horror a very large (hmm, how can I put this?) “Weight-Watcher Challenged” woman was sitting on my experiment! Did she remove the cup I wondered? Now, under normal circumstances I’m not a forward person. Tracking a breakthrough my usual reticence had to take a back seat. “Pardon me madam, but you are sitting on my sample.” “Huh”? “Yes, somewhere under there (point) is a scientific breakthrough which rivals the invention of mass hysteresis”! Bonk! I guess she misunderstood me, and figured this was some bizarre pick-up line or something. She didn’t have to whack me with her purse though.
As she struggled to stand (no mean feat considering she was moving several billion kilo-calories against gravity) I observed with scientific detachment that the protective cup was no longer in place and that in addition to her considerable bulk, she was struggling with the tractive power of bubble gum which had a tenacious hold not only of the wooden bench but her faux-fur coat.
“Let me help you, you’re stuck”. Whack! I felt like the little old man on Laugh-In (a comedy show which was popular around the time 911’s were invented). I presume she had once again misinterpreted my intentions. I knew that science involved some hard knocks, but I swear she was carrying bowling balls in her purse. While pretending (not hard under the circumstances) to collapse from the blow, I managed to stretch an arm on the bench and rescue the gum. I also rescued about 2.5 square inches of synthetic leopard skin. Fortunately, she didn’t notice and as she lumbered down the mall, I was able to scientifically observe that nature had never made a leopard “that” large.
Knowing that time was short (she was headed towards the mall security office) I paid a passing kid five bucks and using his snow cone I was able the freeze the gum sufficiently to facilitate its removal.
Safely at home, I set to the task of seeing exactly what kind of bubble gum I had. This turned out to be more difficult than I had thought. Setting aside gums which were obviously the wrong color (purple, slime green, blue, black, orange , silver, and brown) I still had fourteen different kinds of pink gum. Not only that, but the exact color wasn’t obvious unless you chewed it first. Well, I chewed and chawed sniffing the test piece and comparing it to my sample. I was halfway tempted to simply taste the piece I had recovered from the mall but good sense overcame scientific frenzy.
I found a match at sample number eight. Good thing, my jaw was aching by this time and all the stuff started to look and smell the same. Carefully setting aside the original, I started experimenting with the gum. How much chewing it took, how sticky it got and how much adhesion it really had. My fish scale was really handy for the last part.
As expected, getting it to stick to the tire was easy, chew, apply and press firmly. After covering about 1.5 square inches I realized that: a) I needed more gum; b) I couldn’t chew that much gum; and c) I was going to be sick real soon.
I backed the car up so that the gum was under the tire. Wow! One small square of gum and I had to use quite a bit of power to get the car to move. I stopped and looking back, the gum was stretched between the garage floor and the tire. Wow! Incredible stick. Thus encouraged I started to plan.
Consider the magnitude of my problem. The surface area of four tires on a 993 is around TWO-THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED SQUARE INCHES.! In metric that would be about 2 x 10 to the seventh fig Newtons or something. Considering that each piece of bubble gum would cover only about 1.5 square inches, that meant I needed 1,666 pieces of gum to coat the surfaces of all four tires and that isn’t even counting the spare!
Now, where I live, bubble gum costs $0.65 for a package of six pieces. That works out to about 11 cents per piece. Add on taxes and its 15 cents each. For 1,666 pieces that’s two hundred and fifty bucks worth of gum.
Assuming I could stand to buy that much gum ) how was I going to chew it?
I began eyeing Louise’ new food processor! Halfway to the invention of artificial spit, she caught me and sent me back to the garage. Funny how some women can be so enthusiastic about tracking a Porsche and be so possessive about their cooking stuff!
Alas, my experiment is halted. Not for lack of funding. Lack of volunteers to share the moment of triumph. I rounded up all the kids in the neighborhood. “Hey guys and gals, all you have to do is chew sixteen hundred pieces of gum this afternoon, what-do-ya-say?” “Uhhm how long will this take?” “Lessee, there are about ten of you, say about six hours or so if you chew fast.” They gave up after only a few hundred pieces. Modern kids have no stamina, too much Nintendo I suppose.