The Behaviour of Socks

This story begins with a missing sock. Actually, approximately 40 missing socks, give or take a few, if I estimate the ridiculous amount of un-matchable socks that seem to breed in and overflow out of my laundry basket from one week to the next.

But…..hang on. Before I get any further, perhaps this story doesn’t start with missing socks, perhaps this story starts with a tweet.

Because, of course, the missing socks inevitably became, as all subject matter on earth becomes sooner or later, the subject of a tweet. In reponse to a hashtag  #IwillNeverUnderstand, I wrote a silly tweet about the mystery of missing socks.

Yep, there’s always one odd freakin’ sock left without a pair.

On a side note, it’s not surprising that #Iwillneverunderstand appealed to me as a hashtag. To muse about the things that one will never understand means a licence to delve into realms that cover everything from the banal-but-frustrating issue of missing socks, to really awe-inspiring mysteries of nature and the universe. I could probably compile an almost infinite list of things I will never understand (including the concept of infinity), and enjoy doing so. I’ve written posts on the same topic before: here’s one of them.

But, back to my tweet. When contemplating a list of things I would never understand, the first thought that popped into my head was naturally, “quantum mechanics”.  Having no real idea what the field of quantum mechanics covers,  I felt that I should check – just to make sure that I didn’t accidentally understand quantum mechanics without realising it. (I aim for authenticity.)

Being a devotee of stringent academic research methods, journalistic rigour and the checking of primary sources, I immediately Googled the term quantum mechanics, and went straight to Wikipedia, to try and glean a vague idea of what quantum mechanics means.

Well, hold on to your hat, because it’s there, on the Wikipedia entry for quantum mechanics, that I made the first breakthrough in humankind’s centuries-old search for an answer to the unfathomable mystery of Socks That Go Missing In The Laundry! Reading over the entry I discovered that the field of quantum mechanics could be usefully applied to solve the Missing Sock Conundrum.

Consider the following:

Quantum mechanics provides a mathematical description of much of the dual particle-like and wave-like behavior and interactions of energy and matter. (Wikipedia)

On reading the above sentence I had a moment of genius, immediately spotting that minor changes would reveal the direct connection between quantum mechanics and the phenomenon of Disappearing Socks.

Try this yourself. Replace “Particle-like” with “laundry powder particles”, “wave-like” with “erratic”, “energy” with “spin cycle”, and “matter” with “socks”.  Combine this with a few miniscule adjustments to grammar, and you have the following summation of quantum mechanics:

Quantum mechanics provides a mathematical description of laundry powder particles, and the erratic behaviour created by the interaction of the spin cycle with socks. (Me)

This is the first promising advance in the investigation into the Phenomenon of the Missing Socks since about the year 1410, when socks were shoes, and washing machines were human beings.

I read further, and discovered that:

In advanced topics of quantum mechanics, some of these behaviors are macroscopic and only emerge at extreme (i.e., very low or very high) energies or temperatures.

Putting two and two together, I was now in a position to create a hypothesis for what happens to our socks when they vanish in the wash cycle.

Translation:

as we have seen above, quantum mechanics is – in essence – the study of socks and their erratic behaviour in the laundry cycle. Therefore, in advanced situations (ie, in a front loading washing machine),  if socks are washed at extreme temperatures, they will shrink to macroscopic proportions and become impossible to see with the naked eye (and even if you have a microscope, you will have a lot of trouble trying to put your feet into them). What’s more, if the temperature in the washing machine reaches a certain point, their interaction with  the spin cycle can even cause them to emerge from the washing machine of their own volition, and disappear, never to be seen again.

I realise that this is heady stuff, and may be hard to take in at first. Finally – an answer to the age-old mystery!

If there are any sceptics out there, still unconvinced that quantum mechanics is the answer to where socks go, here is a final piece of proof. Quantum mechanics utilises a formula called the uncertainty principle. Clearly, this formula is custom-made for laundering socks, as you can utilise the principle to work out just how uncertain you should feel about whether you’ll ever see that brand new pair of socks in it’s entirety again. I have illustrated how this works in the diagram below:

A Probability chart shows the typical gradient of uncertainty encountered by a sock-owner doing a load of laundry. Uncertainty increases as the laundry cycles from wash to rinse to spin, and peaks as the sock-owner hangs out the washing.

There you have it. After about 20 minutes of reading a Wikipedia entry, I had solved the centuries-old mystery of Socks That Go Missing In The Laundry.

Feeling satisfied with my day’s endeavours, I downloaded and filled out an application form for a Nobel Prize and sent it off with a self-addressed envelope for return postage.

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211 Comments

  1. That knocks my socks off!
    My heartfelt congratulations on being Freshly Pressed. Fasten your belt (unless it’s in the dryer, too); you’re about to get more readers than you can imagine.

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  2. As one who folds clothes, I often discover the missing socks. I have experienced the unusual disappearance of socks. You did a great job of writing about this mystery with humor. I enjoyed reading every bit of your blog post ( I can’t say the same for every blog post I read). Good luck on the Nobel Prize!

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    • Thanks Emily, that’s nice feedback.
      When I have time (and am not sneaking peeks in while at my day job!) – I’ll be checking out the blogs of those who’ve been kind enough to comment!

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  3. Just when I thought math had no real-world application!

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    • Hmmm….after consulting my scientific calculator for an answer I conclude that you are right. Maths is of no use whatsoever in the real world, it’s all been a huge scam to get us to believe otherwise. (Damn those 6 years of maths at high school!) But it can be useful in the blogosphere, which is a parallel universe where we are not hindered by such considerations as whether something is of any use in the “real” world.

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  4. You have fully explained the conundrum that is odd socks.

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    • Life is full of conundrums. This is a good thing for someone who’s blog is entitled It Keeps Me Wondering. Now that I’ve solved the Missing Sock Conundrum, I will enjoy pondering the next one that comes to mind…stay tuned, I guess!

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      • I have been haunted by the missing sock for years and it is so satisfying to finally understand the science behind it! The best part of it is the timing too because socks are on the top of my list to buy today for this very reason!

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      • Glad to have helped, and I hope this post arrived in time to stop you, as clearly buying more socks is a fruitless excercise. The only way we’ve discovered so far to stop them from disappearing is to wear mismatched ones in the first place. Or to pin them together when you take them off. If you have that many pins!

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  5. Yay! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed, my friend! (Even if you did kick my FP post off of page one.) You are the second person on my blogroll to receive the honor today (I’d like to think I had something to do with it-I probably didn’t).

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    • Oops, sorry about that! Yes, FP – it’s a bit overwhelming! I think you CAN take some credit, since before I started writing a blog back in 2010 I was searching for blogs that convinced me that one could write personal content on a blog and make it interesting and authentic enough (by which I mean, it didn’t feel too consistently “cheery and chirpy” for me to relate to, as some did) for strangers to want to follow, I found yours, and wanted to keep reading it, so yours was definitely the inspiration to get going in the first place!

      Congrats to you for being FPd again btw…..since you’ve been writing so frequently I can’t keep up – I’m about 2 weeks behind on reading your blog!!

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  6. While I assume you submitted your Nobel application under the obvious Physics category, I hope the Committee will also consider the Economic impact of your discovery. Simply by making minor adjustments to the wash cycle’s maximum temperature the effects of the quantum mechanical uncertainty principle can be minimized, significantly reducing or even eliminating vanished sock(s). Based on empirical observation of my own laundry loads combined with your anecdotal evidence (i.e. a sample size infinitely greater than zero) and extrapolating to a global scale, one can envision the resulting savings approaching a fraction of the National Debt.

    As I am the first to recognize this impact, I have taken the liberty of reformatting the title page of your application and added my name as co-author. Good luck to us both!

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    • Naturally I submitted my Nobel prize application under the obvious Physics category, but I also submitted it under the perhaps less obvious So You Think You Can Dance category, just to cover as many bases as possible. It’s not often that one gets a chance to win a Nobel prize, and I wanted to maximise my chances. Thanks for your valuable input on the economic impact. I hope that after adding your name to the application, you sent a copy off under the Economics category, and perhaps also for good measure, the Ergonomics category and the Ectoplasmic category as well.

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  7. Have you tried hashtagging your missing socks and seeing if they answer?

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    • Strangely enough, I didn’t think of that, no. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it. I wonder how this would work, in terms of the life of socks and their travels. Eg, if I created a hashtag #missingsockscomehomeplease and it instantaneously sucks all my missing socks back like a huge magnet, would this be every sock I’ve ever lost in my life, or only those that think of my current address as “home.” (eg 4 years worth of missing socks). Or all socks that have ever gone missing in the whole world, in which case I would die by being crushed by a pile of odd socks the size of Mt Everest.?

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  8. “I felt that I should check – just to make sure that I didn’t accidentally understand quantum mechanics without realizing it.” I often check to make sure I am not an unwitting genius. Thanks to Wikipedia for helping us discover just how brilliant we unknowingly are. Thanks for this laugh.

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  9. Thanks for such an amusing and entertaining read! Now you have discovered the problem, it would be great if you could also provide a solution…?! Well done on being Freshly Pressed – very deserved.

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    • Generally I leave solutions to another department. It’s a full time occupation solving conundrums, let alone coming up with solutions. But the Solutions team are happy to receive suggestions, so if I do come up with any I’ll be sure to write up a sequel to this post now that the world has been left hanging!

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      • Haha!
        Having read a number of your posts since finding your blog, including those about your brother, I just wanted you to know that whilst I did stumble upon them by accident (although not from Googling anything about air sources!) I did stick around to read them. They were obviously hard for you to write but were beautifully written…

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      • Thanks Bek. To be told that someone did read those particular posts and to get feedback on them is more meaningful to me than being Freshly Pressed is. (But it has come about through being Freshly Pressed so I’m still grateful for the experience!) I will check out your blog too….once I’ve replied to everyone who is commenting on mine….!???

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  10. Love this article!

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  11. My sister’s solution is just to wear unmatched socks. I don’t know if this improves the rate of actual sock-loss, or counters quantum physics. Perhaps there’s an alternate dimension completely covered in socks.

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    • I think your sister’s choice of wearing unmatched socks may cause all prior theories of Quantum Mechanics to unravel (*deliberate pun). Please ask her to document what happens when they go in the laundry. (I suspect they probably double.)

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  12. Brilliant post. I often find my missing socks inside the duvet cover or a t-shirt whenever I wash my clothes. Good luck with the Nobel Prize!!

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    • I sometimes find mine in the garden, right below the washing line, where they probably fell out of a doona (*Australian translation) cover or t-shirt while I was pegging out the washing, and disappeared amongst the rose bushes. Sometimes I find them between the washing machine and the wall, which is obviously the point where some socks lose momentum after emerging from the washing machine at quantum speed.* (*quantum speed may not be a real term but it sounds good)

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  13. First, congrats on being Freshly Pressed! Kind of fitting considering the subject matter. Secondly, I completely agree with your hypothesis regarding quantum physics and its relation to sock disappearance and re-appearance. Speaking of which… some socks showed up in my drier; I think they might be yours…

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    • Haha, there’s a pun that has been overlooked until now! (Not that I press socks – or anything else for that matter.) From your description of those socks, (as, socks) I suspect that they could be mine. Good work! This helps to reinforce the work I’ve done on this theory.

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  14. And I always thought they just went to “sock heaven”. I also came to the conclusion that reusable plastic container covers went there to!

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    • Interesting theory, Elise. So if reusable plastic containers go to sock heaven I assume that sock heaven is full of unmatched socks stored neatly in reusable plastic containers?

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  15. Good luck on the Nobel prize in Socks!

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  16. Kinda like schroedinger’s cat. The socks are both there and not there at the same time – until you open the washing machine’s door

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    • Sounds like this Schroedinger dude has a cat flap. My cat often straddles 2 different dimensions too, when she chooses to stand with her bum still in the kitchen and her head outside the house, watching a bird through the cat flap.

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  17. Ah, yes, quantum mechanics muss everything up. I never lost a sock in college, but then as soon as the words “I’ll never take quantum mechanics” left my mouth, I lost all five black pairs at once, just when I needed them for an interview.

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    • You should probably join myself and my new colleague (located somewhere further up the comments trail) if we conduct further explorations in this field, as I think your anecdotal evidence could take this field in a whole new direction. And what annoying timing – after all, what prospective employer is going to give you a job after they’ve asked you to roll up your trousers for that compulsory sock inspection and found colored – or worse – mismatched socks??!!

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  18. Angela Nantongo

     /  December 5, 2012

    Reblogged this on 0324th NKIMA and commented:
    LOL Quantum Physics Explained. Not Sure If This How My Physics Teacher Did It But..Now I Get It! XD

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  19. “just to make sure that I didn’t accidentally understand quantum mechanics without realising it” – HA HA HA HA HA! I love that! Congrats on the FP. This was a fun read!

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    • Well I don’t want to misrepresent myself. It would be terrible to discover that I could have been a physicist if only the subjects I’d enjoyed at school had not got in the way of studying Advanced Maths, chemistry and physics.

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  20. Or perhaps it is just another example of the innate hostility of inanimate objects, AKA resistentialism on which the Farin Urlaub Racing Team has done a song with an oddly unnerving music video. They must all be destroyed! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dusche [song]

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    • That video is very bleak. (judging by it’s description). At first I was inclined to respond that I think it’s time to stand up to the hostility that socks, pencil sharpeners, owl statues, and other household objects are constantly throwing our way. But after reading the description of this video clip I feel inclined to say that if anyone does think the objects in their house are attacking them, and they are in Australia, they should call the SANE helpline on 1800 18 SANE (7263), Monday to Friday. 9:00am-5:00pm EST. I’ve experienced someone I know very closely, who has schizophrenia, becoming psychotic, and it’s not fun or funny.

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  21. I understand quantum mechanics better than I ever have after reading this.

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  22. Haha! I research quantum mechanics here and there, but I never thought about comparing something science-related to something from ordinary life such as…missing socks! How clever!

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    • Well I don’t usually research quantum mechanics at all, so you’re ahead of me there! It wasn’t something I’d planned to do in advance, but the silliness of the idea came to me when looking at the Wikipedia entry. Silly analogies are always fun! Thanks for reading!

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  23. Would you mind giving me the address where to download the application form for Nobel Prize? I might need that very soon too. :) Anyway, great article and congrats for being Freshly Pressed.

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    • I just Googled “Nobel Prize applications” and went to the first site that came up. (actually, I just did that now and am surprised to see that it generates some sites!) I like your gravatar of Scooby Doo – surely a great role model for anyone pursuing excellence in their field. Good luck with your own work and thanks for the congrats.

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      • You are first person to like my Scooby Doo gravatar. (or, at least the first person to tell me so.) And thanks for Googling “Nobel Prize applications” for me. Bye. :)

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  24. denybgib

     /  December 5, 2012

    Reblogged this on Den Ybgib and commented:
    Wow. This is pretty awesome.

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  25. As a relatively) new blogger here I am insanely fascinated by being “freshly pressed”… Congrats! And I’m dying to know… What are your views at today?!? It’s too exciting!! What an amazing notification to receive!
    Not to mention how being freshly pressed fits it so nicely with your laundry theme..
    ; )
    B

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    • Ha, ha, well done – the second person to make the connection with Freshly Pressed and socks. Can I just say again that I’d never iron a sock- and rarely iron anything else either – so the connection would have escaped me. In answer to your question about how I feel today….um, well, here I am, about 48 hours later, so it’s not even today anymore, and if anything, I feel kind of stressed, because there are so many comments to reply to and I feel like I should reply to anyone who has commented! Being Freshly Pressed IS exciting but it’s also crazy! (* Note – Especially if, like me, you had your settings set to email you every time someone likes, comments, or follows your blog – I now have about 650 emails in my inbox to deal with apart from so far about 130 comments to reply to. Previously the rate of comments and “likes” and follows was so low this was never a problem!)
      So good luck with your blog. If I ever get finished replying to everyone, I will try to look at the blogs of people who’ve commented. Have fun with your blog – that’s the main thing!

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  26. Classic :D

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  27. That does make sense…

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  28. Oh, my! Your theory has changed everything! I was kept in the dark still believing that gnomes were hiding it in miscellenous places like under one corner of the bed sheet or in a toddler sleeve or even hiding it in the other sock… Now, i need to go back and read that awesome theory again because i,m certainly not the genius you are ;)
    Loved it! Thanks for making me laugh before going to bed, now i’m sure I’ll make nice dreams! (I’ll come back tomorrow, because now you made me want to read more!)

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    • Ha, that’s nice, thanks..but if you did come back today you’ll see that I’ve been too busy (in between working full time at 2 different jobs and cooking, cleaning etc for a house of people) trying to reply to all these comments, to write any new posts. In fact I may never write another post again. You’ll have to read old posts until I get around to it. There’s a few good ones there though – you should be able to get a few more laughs! ;-)

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      • I’ve already started doing that and I really enjoy your style and point of views ;) can’t wait to discover some more… But hope you’ll get going later!

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  29. It’s gremlins that take socks. Your explanation does make complete sense, but it’s always gremlins.

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  30. I totally believe in this quantum mechanics and missing socks phenomenon! I have experienced this too many times. I mean both pairs go in the dryer, but magically only one comes out! Before discovering the “true” reason behind this phenomenon, I attributed it to the sock monster! Great post!

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    • Thank you. I believe the entire world will be equally thrilled to realise what the true story is, when this news breaks in Science Now, or Science Tomorrow, or some other similar and totally made up Scientific Journal.

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  31. I’m speechless … very well done!

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  32. I also like Rod Serling…

    “You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination—next stop, the Twilight Zone!”
    – Rod Serling, The Twilight Zone, Introduction.

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    • Hmmm….perhaps that’s what I should have called my blog. The Twilight Zone. Ah well, too late now. Thanks for the reference.

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      • I used to tell my kids, when a sock came up missing, that it had fallen into the “so-zone,” a term that reminded me, as did this post, of one of my favorite shows. Excellent post…likewise on the title!

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  33. I really enjoyed reading this. It truly is a mystery, glad you were able to make it humorous!

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    • I think I got to the point where I looked at the massive amount of unmatched socks left over in the laundry and thought: either I cry, or I write a blog post! Thanks for reading!

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  34. I must say your theory has interesting implications. Does reversing the spin cycle on one sock cause the spin on the other to reverse as well? Thereby explaining how socks turn inside out in the wash? Is the conceivably a universe where no sock has ever gone missing? What would that universe be like? What would people talk about if they couldn’t talk about missing sock conundrums? Are their lives empty? Does this universe necessarily not have socks? Can we save them? Their toes must be freezing, and their shoes smell really bad.

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    • Fascinating questions, Mat. I had not thought about the possibility of a universe where no sock has ever gone missing (and have to admit I am skeptical as to the existence of such a universe.) As for the idea of a universe without socks – now that is potentially a terrible thought! But wait- perhaps this universe is our exact opposite. So our socks travel through portals into these other universes, and mismatched socks rain down on them night and day. To them, this is completely normal. They, in turn, wonder where the water goes from their washing machines when they do laundry. And here we are, in our universe, thinking it’s quite normal when raindrops fall on our heads.

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  35. I’m pretty sure I just drop them. They sometimes reappear. Often in odd places.

    And if it isn’t me, I blame the cats. They hide lots of things.

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    • Ah yes, the cat is a likely suspect. This brings us back to Schroedinger and his feline friend, as was mentioned by another commenter earlier. I didn’t want to get into really complicated quantum physics in the original post, but basically if you look further into the experiments and theories of quantum mechanics you’ll find there is a guy called Schroedinger, who has a cat, and this cat likes to put on 4 mismatched socks and then get stuck halfway in the cat flap so that it’s half inside the house (one dimension) and half outside (another dimension). By the time it gets out, the socks are either wrecked or gone, no-one usually notices which. So that’s the theory of Shroedinger’s cat.

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  36. Holy socks, I am so glad to have stumbled across your blog! First of all, I saw the phrase “the concept of infinity” and I almost died (not really) – I love that stuff! Also, I was going through that pile of lonely socks that everyone must have (I have concluded this after reading this post), and threw one away that I have been holding on to for quite some time, hoping to find its mate, yet never managing to locate it. Once the sock was in the trash, I looked down, and the other sock was right in front of me! Yeah. Cool story, I know. Good luck with that peace prize thingy.

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    • Ah, there is the making of another post. Does everyone do that same thing – hold on for months, probably years, to the odd socks, expecting their mate to turn up in the next load, then finally, with a tear of regret, throw the mismatched sock away – ONLY TO FIND THE PAIR IN THE NEXT LOAD!!!! Aaagh!

      The concept of infinity – I agree that “all of that stuff” is mind-blowing, although I don’t understand it in the least.

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  37. Interesting, very interesting.

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  38. Caddie

     /  December 5, 2012

    LOL, loved this! I’ve been searching for years on an explanation! Damn science stole my socks

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    • Science has been overrated all these years. It’s like “ooh, science, you’re so special, all the smart kids take science and all the kids who take history are just dumb-asses.” Then look at what happens. It gets too big for its boots, goes feral and takes your socks. Good one, science.

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  39. I have a particular missing sock situation/story that has stuck with me for years…

    I needed a certain pair of socks for the outfit I was wearing that day and they were dirty. I washed them by hand and placed only those two socks in the dryer.

    When the dryer finished and I opened it there was only one sock.

    I searched the inside of the dryer to see if there was a hole in the lint-trap or something… no. I searched around the bathroom to see if I’d dropped it and only placed one in there… no.

    I from then on referred to our dryer as Thunderdome: Two socks enter, One sock leaves.

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    • Throughout the many comments made on this post, it’s obvious that many people are suffering from the impact of disappearing-sock-phenomenon, and there have been a few that have, pretty amusingly, backed up my theory completely. But, I mean – WTF??!! How is that possible? Did the sock turn up? My theory was totally about washing machines, I had not realised that dryers were equally part of the quantum equation that causes socks to vanish! Hmmm…this may require further investigation.

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  40. Haha great read!

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  41. I quote: “if socks are washed at extreme temperatures, they will shrink to macroscopic proportion”
    I think you mixed up some notions here. Macroscopic means visible by human. Sorry but you’ll need to try again… Interesting theory though, you’re in the right way ;-)

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    • Well what do you know, I just assumed macroscopic meant even smaller than microscopic! How tedious of Wikipedia to mislead me like that! Thanks for setting me straight on that point. It’s lucky I wasn’t really planning to hand this paper in to the well known Science journal, Science The Day After Tomorrow.

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  42. That’s funny as I have written a short story about missing socks!! Here’s a link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008ULBNQQ

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    • Ah, well done! I see from the excerpt that we were on the same track! I hope the NASA tracking device you implanted into the socks helped you to solve the mystery!

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  43. Reblogged this on afruitcakecreamyraneemy and commented:
    Socks hmmm

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  44. I have approximately 20 unmatchable socks!It’s kind of embarrasing! Great post! Congrats on being FP!

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    • I can match your 20 unmatchable socks, in fact I will meet your 20 unmatchable socks and I will raise you another 10 unmatchable socks. I have so many unmatched socks that I could start an odd sock shop, with the only flaw in that idea being that the market for second hand, odd, socks is extremely limited.

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  45. heeheehee. I find them stuck to the insides of sweaters, lost until the next winter, when the other matching one has long been discarded as a cat toy.

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    • Aha, another mention of cats. Please refer to earlier comments to see where quantum mechanics and cats intersect – to be precise, via some dude called Shroedinger and his furry friend. (a cat).

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  46. Loved it all – especially the bit about checking to see whether you accidentally understood quantum mechanics without realising it.
    One minor note:
    “Therefore, in advanced situations (ie, in a front loading washing machine), if socks are washed at extreme temperatures, they will shrink to macroscopic proportions and become impossible to see with the naked eye (and even if you have a microscope, you will have a lot of trouble trying to put your feet into them). ”
    “Macroscopic” here merely means “visible”, or “manifest” – and not microscopic. Because we are dealing with quantum mechanics, your theory still holds water (pardon the pun) if one views socks as generally being washed at non-extreme temperatures thus causing the phenomenon of *inverse* macroscopic proportions to apply, which means that the socks will be impossible to see with the naked eye. At extreme temperatures, the socks become visible (macroscopic), but unless made of 100% cotton will have taken on altered physical dimensions such that you will have trouble squeezing your feet into them.
    But hey, I am completely behind your self-nomination for a Nobel Prize for have finally explained exactly why socks go missing. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed. And thanks for the laugh.
    I am, by the way, living in a different dimension to yours, since I “never” have socks missing. Have not lost a sock in over fifteen years. :) Or, perhaps we are in the same dimension, and I have simply been fortuitous in my choice of laundry powder?

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    • Hi Allison, and thanks for that explanation of macroscopic. Someone else said the same thing earlier but I enjoyed the fact that you were able to dechipher how it might have worked anyway, in keeping with my ridiculous theory. Very impressive! I also have had one other commenter so far who says they have never lost a pair of socks. I told them I had called the Special Physics Branch to come around and take them away for observation, so you can also expect a knock at your door in the next 2.5 minutes.

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  47. Silly me, I thought it was the sock monster – But I am probably stuck in time and have superstitious beliefs in Fairies and such. Now to solve the problem of the holes in the toes.

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  48. Oh those pesky socks. For years I thought there was a blackhole in the washing machine that just sucked up the socks. Thanks for clearing up the mystery and with such detail. We may not ever get matching pairs but at least we know where the socks go. I don’t know why this entry was classified under ‘Humour’, there is nothing funny about disappearing socks, gawddd.

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    • Funny you mention black holes, I just mentioned them in my last reply to the previous commenter. When writing this post I wanted to go on and tie in the notion of black holes – because black holes are always so fascinating, and it was an obvious link to make. The only thing that stopped me was length of post. I desperately try to keep posts under 1000 words if I can, (usually hard for me!) as I’m aware that I’ll lose people if they go on too long. So I excercised some restraint and avoided that new tangent. But my deep seated belief is that if we dig far enough, black holes will be at the very bottom of this mystery.

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  49. Brilliant! I think you may be onto something – you need to write this up as a paper and send it to Nature immediatley!

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    • Thanks for the suggestion. I suppose it makes sense that Nature would need a hard copy sent via snail mail – not on email, I suppose? And Facebook would be out of the question I guess? Do you have Nature’s address?

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    • Hello again! You already made this comment, but I guess because it’s taken me a day or more to get this far with my replies to all the comments I’ve received, you probably thought that you hadn’t sent it or something. I like your suggestion and am happy to send a letter to Nature if you have the address – or I can DM Nature if Nature is on Twitter.

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  50. You know I’ve never lost a sock, does this put me outside the realm of quantum mechanics? ;)

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    • Outside of the realm of quantum mechanics, yes – but just hold tight, because I’ve called the Special Physics Branch, who will be around in 3.2 minutes to whisk you off for observation in their lab – as yet, you are the only person within the entire sock wearing universe (*not to be confused with the non-sock wearing universe mentioned by another commenter a few comments ago) to report never having lost a sock. How old are you, by the way? – no, wait, that doesn’t matter, I just recalled that babies lose socks all day long.

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  51. I will Never Understand why only one sock goes missing and not both. But then i guess i would likely not know they are missing so maybe some have. I have a similar thought as you when it comes to unknown subjects and Wikipedia can answer the basic questions, but I also like to look for them in blogs, because people seem to explain it on a more clear level.

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  52. rebeccaalice14

     /  December 6, 2012

    Wikipedia – always first point of reference…no matter how much lecturers hate it!

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    • haha! I’m old enough to have had to spend tedious amounts of time in libraries that did truly smell like old mothballs, looking up catalogues that comprised of book references written on actual individual cards when I was at uni – and look what good that did me. Do I now head to the local library when I want to read up on quantum mechanics? No. Do I now have any other ideas to put into this comment, as to where else one might look for information other than a library? No. Thank you wikipedia. (but don’t let my daughter read this though, since I tell her not to do all her research by Googling, and to look in books!)

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  53. Brilliant! :)

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  54. Oooh, socks and their erratic behavior! Brilliant! Thank you for the morning laugh! Congratulations on being freshly pressed!

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  55. This was fantastic. I appreciate the effort that you put in to research this. What a great metaphor! https://mccrackenlove.wordpress.com/

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    • Ha, ha, thanks! I have to admit, I didn’t really put very much research into it. But hey, I had fun writing it and it seems that it’s a bit of fun to read, so it’s all good!

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  56. My socks literally ALWAYS loose their mate….so annoying! haha great post, thanks for sharing and congrats on Freshly Pressed!

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    • Hmmm….your case sounds more severe than the average case of disappearing socks – I would recommend extreme measures – someone said their old housemate used to pin their socks together when she took them off. Perhaps this is the only way you will ever retain a matching pair!

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  57. Fabulous post!

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  58. Congrats for being Freshly Pressed! I think I got my answer to “Why shrinkage/ Why socks get lonely.” :)

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  59. michellemcnallyphotography

     /  December 6, 2012

    Oh Dear – Thank you so much for the enlightenment – Unfortunately I shall now have to go and apologise to my husband for bashing him over the head with a rolling pin every time he has put only one sock in the wash basket and obviously hid the other from me. I feel sure he will find it a huge relief that there is now a plausable scientific theory as to the disappearance of his socks!! Very Well Done – Made me smile very broadly :-)

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  60. The mystery of the missing sock in my flat is usually solved behind the sofa I hang them to dry. I often leave them there on purpose and wear the odd ones that have hidden there in pairs, as a kind of sof-o-logical determinism. Your case is very well argued, well done!

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    • That’s an interesting twist…so your pairs of socks emerge intact from the washing machine, and only disappear in one predetermined spot, where you can easily locate them, but don’t always choose to? Sounds like you have really taken charge of the missing-odd-sock phenomenon and not let it beat you! Kudos to you!

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  61. That’s great! The next time my boyfriend questions what has happened to all his socks, I’ll just tell him it’s quantum mechanics. Congrats on being freshly pressed!

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  62. What an entertaining read!! I have also wondered why I never have matching socks, but in my case it’s usually because my sisters like to wear unmatched socks on purpose! So there’s hope for those unmatched socks yet! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! Can’t wait to read more of your posts, when I’m home and not on my lunch break at work! :)

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    • Sisters can be very annoying when you are young and live at home with them….especially if you have to share a room like I did with mine – but then it turns out to be a real joy to have a sister once you are no longer living under your parent’s roof with them! I voluntarily lived in quite a few shared houses with my sister – she never stole my socks. Thanks for reading!

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  63. You’re a great story teller! Bless your cotton socks!

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  64. Comical, informative and comical. I was “lol”ing.

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    • Thanks! Comical is good, informative is an extra bonus. (*No responsibility taken for the accuracy of the so-called “information” supplied.)

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  65. javaj240

     /  December 6, 2012

    Quantum mechanics aside, here is a real-world solution to your problem: purchase the same kind of socks over and over again. This way, when one gets loose or becomes microscopic it won’t actually matter. Is there a “Heloise” prize I can apply for?

    I really loved this post, by the way. It was kind of like “Quantum Mechanics for Dummies” (like me). Thanks!

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    • Thanks for the idea, but it never seems to be possible to find the same socks again, or any other item of clothes that you like – consumerism dictates that they change seasonally along with every other item of clothing. Plus I do like variety, although I am not quite as radical as some commenters who apparently wear – *gasp* – mismatched socks – through choice!!! It really was “Quantum Mechanics Explained By A Dummy” so glad you liked it!

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  66. Up until now I assumed that missing socks turned into “pocket fluff”, you know the stuff that you find in the bottom of your pockets even though you double checked that you’d removed everything prior to washing.
    I stand happily corrected and of course will be voting for you to get the Nobel Prize which I’m sure Simon Cowell will soon have televised, with Ant & Dec hosting an elimination “science off” each week….. :)

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    • Thanks for your vote – every vote counts;-) I hope that we don’t have to dance in front of an audience at the Science-off eliminations – but if it’s on Channel 10 it’s pretty likely that we’ll not only have to dance but also mud wrestle naked. Eww!

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  67. This post is most certainly pure genius! I fully intend to test the further hypothesis today with my front loading washer by lowering the temperature and choosing NOT to use the “extra spin” selection in order to determine whether less socks come up missing. I do have a high degree of uncertainty as to whether this will work in my case, however, as my thermostat is generally left on the setting called “scald your skin off if you aren’t careful” and thus the hot water heater may just have a conniption over this new adjustment (it really does like scalding one’s skin off unexpectedly).

    I can only hope that the washing machine, the dryer, and the hot water heater do not possess a common language, as between them they just might catch on to my plan and thus ruin all test results by acting out of order (though this would mean I get all of my socks!)

    Extra congratulations on being Freshly Pressed and if you don’t win either the Physics or So You Think You Can Dance categories, please remember to re-submit your application under The Solution To World Hunger, as the price of socks is quite steep and solving the problem of lost socks would free up quite a lot of money to devote to World Hunger!

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    • Wait, if it’s not too late, I think you should not go ahead with your plan – it sounds as though your whitegoods may be conspiring against you! (Although I guess as you said, I guess if they act up, the worst that could happen is that you DONT get scalded, and your socks DON’T go missing…..hell, go ahead after all.) I think my application should have a very good chance in the So You Think You Can Dance category of the Nobel Prize, although not if I have enact it out whilst doing the Tango.

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  68. I don’t think I own one matching pair of socks due to this phenomena and am forced to always wear 2 different socks. Thank you for your hilarious explanation!

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    • I always wear 2 different socks, too, Kyley, although they usually match ;-) This is terrible, to hear that you don’t have a single matching pair – what do you do at job interviews when they ask you to stand up and roll up your trousers for the compulsory matching-sock-check?

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  69. Ha! This was an amazingly fun read – and I learned much. I loved the scramble to check Wikipedia; it’s nice to know that I’m not the only that thinks I might be an accidental genius. :-D

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    • We all think we are accidental geniuses, but some of us really are accidental geniuses.
      Sadly, I am not one of those people.
      *(it’s hard to feel like a genius when you are not quite sure if the plural of genius is geniuses…surely a genius would know!)

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      • Sadly, I also am not one of those people. (Yes. That is always a good indication – I haven’t the foggiest what the plural of genius is either. Genii?? ;-) ) Btw, I greatly enjoyed discovering your blog – it’s not often I learn the answer to my sock anamoly! – and wanted to share that joy. If you have a moment, please check out my blog – I’ve nominated you for a purely optional reward. Please don’t feel as though you have to participate, but it is an amazing way to connect with other bloggers.

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  70. Being an engineering student and a constant wearer of uniforms, the location and “erratic behavior” of my socks is a daily worry for me. This really gave me some scope and some understanding into the situation. Hopefully there is some way that we will be better equipped to uncover these roaming foot covers, rather than be forced to go out and buy more pairs of socks for a uniform that we must wear every single day. Well written. Liked.

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    • Thankyou. Hopefully in time, humans and socks will stop antagonising one another and learn to live together in harmony.

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  71. I have given up on trying to match socks because of the mystery of the missing socks! This has now solved the mystery and I will be recommending this article and blog to friends!

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    • Thanks! It seems that many people have been defeated by this mystery for centuries – or at least ever since socks were invented. That is a lot of lost socks.

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  72. Good luck with the Nobel Prize! Clearly deserved.

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    • Thank you. I don’t like to imply that my work is any more deserving than the work of those who may have created new works of literature, done great work towards world peace or created a cure for a ravaging disease – but it’s nice of you to say so for me. ;-)

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  73. Thoroughly enjoyed reading your post and Elise’s addition of the reusable plastic containers – Congrats on being Freshly Pressed

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    • Just more proof that you should keep your reusable plastic containers – they always come in handy! Thanks for reading.

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  74. Hahaha, this is great! I on the other hand don’t mind so much when I have a “missing” sock because I never wear matching socks. Since high school, I’ve deliberately always worn different colored socks. Just cuz :P

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    • I’m glad you are not bothered by the odd sock phenomenon. We need more people to throw away the shackles and stop caring whether their socks match or not. If they did, I suspect Murphy’s Law would probably override Quantum Mechanics and as soon as nobody cared if they only had odd socks in the laundry – kerplunk! – all the missing socks would fall out of the sky and onto their heads (probably killing them but oh well, I didn’t say it would end happily.)

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  75. That was a great belly laugh of a post. Even my socks are giggling. Looking forward to exploring more of your posts, and hopefully becoming brilliant in the process. Impressive and witty responses in the comments as well. You have genius level readers. Congrats on getting Pressed.

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    • Thanks Kami. I am impressed with the comments too – there is a surprising level of interest and enthusiasm for solving the frustrating problem of socks going missing in the laundry! I’ll be very keen to hear if you become brilliant by reading my posts….because that would suggest that writing them should have the same effect on me! If you do become brilliant through reading them, let me know – perhaps I can then market my blog as a post-graduate course and charge people $3000 AUD per semester to read it, since that is the (probably lower-end) cost of becoming brilliant here in Australia.

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  76. Reblogged this on marsk and commented:
    This is fun and so interesting, the vieuw, the thaughts and such….. i am not really into blogging myself, but hope to be of any for my followers by reblogging, till i am able to write myself again………pffttttt

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  77. I guess this gives new meaning to the old phrase, “Sock it to me.”

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    • Er…yeah….although I don’t know what that new meaning is. Just another example of how socks are caught up in far more dodgy behaviour than you’d think when you first meet them.

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  78. Well, having conquered the mystery of the missing socks, perhaps you’d consider how to end world hunger and bring about world peace? Imagine what you might do with THIRTY minutes of thinking about a problem, (Instead of just 20). My mind reels at the possibilities. I know, I know, ending world hunger wouldn’t be as big a deal as saving the economy by reducing unmatched socks, never mind all those job interviews salavaged, but don’t you need two Nobel prizes? A balanced set. Just in case you lose one…in the dryer….just saying.

    Thank you for this very funny and clever post, I will be back for more!

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    • One commenter below has already suggested that reducing the wastage of lost socks COULD actually have an effect economics and solve some bigger problems – which was nice of that commenter – I wish they’d been around when I was filling out that application form! I think I have already tried to kill 2 birds with 1 stone, or, apply for 2 different categories of Nobel prize with one submission. It’s hard to recall properly now as I’ve been writing ridiculous replies for the last 2 days now, but I believe I’ve submitted in the Physics category and the So You Think You Can Dance category. So fingers crossed – it could be the first to win in both categories!
      Thanks for reading! (I’ve also been replying out of order – it gets amazingly confusing having all these comments to respond to – and I know I checked your blog out and made a comment on it yesterday.)

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  79. I wonder whether I can apply some of these principles to find several earrings that have gone missing in the past year? All sadly missed favourites, you understand…

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    • Hmmm, well there is one essential question to ask yourself there: did I put my earrings in the washing machine? If yes, then the same principles apply and I’m afraid you’ll never see your earrings again. If not, then I’m afraid that the quantum mechanics applied in my theory may not be the cause for your missing-odd-earring phenomenon. Judging by the wisdom offered up in these comments by many other readers about the most common cause for all sorts of problems, I’d say that a cat is clearly to blame!

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      • Gracious… the ghost of Peter the Tom* has come back to haunt me!

        *a rather arrogant marmalade monster I was inordinately fond of as a child.

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      • I’d say that’s definitely what’s happened here. The ghost of your old cat is back, to haunt you and take your earrings.

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  80. That’s pretty good. Maybe next you can work on a theory to explain how belly button lint forms, and its practical applications towards something useful, besides taking up space in ones navel.

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    • Well, this really is more the realm of a wannabe Biologist than a wannabe Physicist, but on this occasion I’ll give it a go, because I think the answer is staring at us from the comments that have already been made. According to the wise readers and commenters on this post, anything that can’t be blamed on quantum mechanics can be blamed on cats. Have you noticed how wherever a cat has been, a little pile of cat hair is left behind?……obviously they sneak up and sit on your belly when you are asleep and leave behind their little piles of cat fluff to prove it.

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    • Oops, almost forgot – a practical application for the lint? Well, you could try knitting it into a new sock to replace the one that went missing in the laundry….

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  81. Congrats on making it to FP! Love the post! I too am amazed at how many unmatched socks I have. We have a basket we put all the socks in. Once all pairs are matched, we throw out the rest. I posted a blog about socks since my children never seems to want to wear them. Dude, wheres your socks. (http://wp.me/p2Js8Y-1v) Would you mind if I reposted this to my blog?

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    • Hi, sorry for the delay in responding…. I’ve been trying to valiantly reply to everyone, but it becomes quite confusing as to where you’re up to with replies and I’m afraid I’ve replied out of order! It’s nice of you to ask if you can repost it – I checked your blog, and I’d be very happy for you to. Your blog looks like fun – I’ll also check out that post about socks asap. Ah, missing socks: just one of the things that keeps mothers teetering on the verge of insanity at times!

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  82. Wow…I wish you were a physics teacher. Amazing explanation!! Great post!!

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!.

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    • Thanks Marisha, but I have to say that I am glad I am not a physics teacher. All the physics teachers at my school had beards and wore flared polyester trousers. (It was the late 80′s, but I think they bought their pants in the late 70′s and saw no reason to throw them out just because they were hideously outdated.) Hmmm….actually now that I think about it, there was only one Physics teacher at my school – the other people I just described taught Maths, Biology, and Chemistry…..notice a pattern there? Thanks for reading!

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  83. absolutely humorous!! had a smile throughout the post!!! rally well written!! and btw I never find my missing sock!!! :)

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  84. Niceone! Coudn’t help but imagine all those lonely socks wandering around like old souls .Congrats.

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    • Hmmm, I’m enjoying that vision, which I’m picturing looks like an intriguing combination of the 19th Century Russian novelists (Gogol – Dead Souls) with the Muppets! Thanks for reading!

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  85. daily life impressions

     /  December 7, 2012

    well, this explains a lot….. <3

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  86. I never suffer the shame of losing socks as I attach remote controlled dynamite sticks to mine. Whenever one goes missing I press my handy “Detonation!!!!” button and the subsequent earth shaking explosion brings about the whereabouts of the missing “foot glove”, as I sometimes call them. Sadly this also wreaks tremendous amounts of damage on my property but, for the sake of the socks, I feel it is worthwhile.

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    • I don’t know why your solution is not more widely publicised! Surely you could package this up and market it as a kit in time for Christmas: The Un-losable Sock Kit: 1 pair of socks & 2 remote controlled dynamite sticks for only $29.99! (postage extra). I suppose there is a small risk of causing injury or death, if for example someone else was popping your sock into the washing machine at the moment that you decide to hit the detonation button to locate it, but as you say, for the sake of locating your socks, these things are a small price to pay. Well done – keep up the good work!

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  87. Live in a college dorm where people will take your clothes out of the washer or dryer for ya and you’ll be missing a lot of socks.

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    • I know what you mean. I used to live in an apartment with shared laundry facilities, where, if I wasn’t quick enough, some other resident would take my things out of the shared washing machines or off the line for me. It’s always frustrating then, when things vanish. I don’t think quantum mechanics is to blame in this situation!

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  88. I often wonder where the other sock goes. This last set of 6 pairs of socks that I purchased have all been labeled alphabetically. We shall see who disappears first…..
    drjeff7
    http://heritagebreedsfarm.com

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  89. My son complained about his socks disappearing too. I sent him some “sock-savers” to attach the socks in pairs while in the wash. The sock savers disappeared.
    I think there must be an alternate universe that needs socks for energy sources and has developed a way to transport them from washing machines through black holes into their universe. Why else would this be a world wide phenomenon?
    Love your post!

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    • Just between you and me, I suspect that this may be the underlying cause too – as mentioned to another commenter, I really wanted to tie in black holes in this post (always so fascinating), and I only resisted due to word length. I think your evidence of socks, and sock savers vanishing is irrefutable proof that they are being sucked through a portal into a parallel universe people by creatures who need a steady supply of socks in order to survive. Thanks for reading!

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  90. Tyler

     /  December 9, 2012

    So funny! An immediate follow from me – keep up the excellent writing, and thanks for bringing to light the missing sock conundrum…Now to solve how my headphones get tangled up in the middle of the night!

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  91. This is Great. I think that my kids socks are truly the most ambitious of the group. You put them in the washer and by the time the dryer is done they are missing one.

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  92. skinnywench

     /  December 12, 2012

    After reading your enlightening post I now can answer my own mystery of case of the disappearing underwire bra (always one) in the washing machine.

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  93. I just belive in the sock-dwarfts ;-) I think they are invisible but everywhere… and so it comes, that, if you get rid of a lonley sock and a few days later, suddenly, the other one of the pair is there.. It is the nature of the common sock-dwarf, they want to tease you ;-)

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  94. Thanks for discovering this a day before the world ends….nice eureeka moment……

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    • Well in fact 21 December was only the end of a “cycle” of time, much like the cycle in the washing machine in which all your socks go missing. Although I’ve not found any evidence of the Mayans referring directly to socks, I’m hopeful that this new age will contain more matching socks, and less missing socks.

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  95. Happy you are FP and enjoy your blogging. I have been blogging since 10/5/11. Thought you might enjoy one of my posts and be inclined to delve deeper :)

    http://cryominute.wordpress.com/2012/06/25/lost-in-my-castle/

    At the botton of the post is a link to another post I did on The Lost Sock Syndrome.

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    • Well thanks for reading! I checked your lost sock post – loved that picture! Where’s it from? I would have loved to have used that in my post if I’d known about it!

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  1. The Behaviour of Socks « It keeps me wondering | Tammy Rizzo's Blog
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