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Preview: Hackier than thou

Hackier than thou

Updated: 2018-03-06T19:28:15.008+10:30


Doing without


Participant: No Impact Man (and his long-suffering family)

Hypothesis: That even a New Yorker can live so (s)he has little-to-no impact on the environment. Or possibly, that someone who tries to live this way and is media-savvy enough can make a shitload of money off their book deal and the movie tie-in. It's hard to separate out this guy's motivations.

Summary: The family has given up using cars, public transport, lifts, electricity, plastics, and... toilet paper. (But not book or movie deals. Did I mention that already? Maybe I'm just jealous.) Their kitchen is like the eat local experiment on steroids.

The experiment seems to be working for the family so far. There's a lot more info on the philosophical motivation behind their choices, on environmental issues in general, and also on their day-to-day lives on the blog. And did I mention there's going to be a movie?

Eat Local Challenge


Participants: A whole heap of people, lots of them listed somewhere on the project's website.

Hypothesis: That it is possible to change your eating habits so that you get the majority (or even all) of your food from locally sources of production.

Summary: For reasons listed here, a group of bloggers decided to try switching to eating locally produced food where ever possible. There are lots of encouraging posts on the group blog, but the really interesting posts come from the individual bloggers who have taken part in one of the Eat Local Challenges. The group runs a challenge a couple of times a year, and people who take part promise to try to eat locally for the month of the challenge.

Lucette took part in May 2006 and documented her experience on her blog. So did Vi, with posts about it here, here and here. Other bloggers who took part last year are listed here. Most of them seemed to find it a positive and worthwhile experience, if only because you get a chance to learn about what grows (and what doesn't!) in your local area.

For anyone who's interested, this year's Eat Local Challenge will be in September.


How cynical are you?


Finders keepers

: Indonesia Anonymus

Hypothesis: If you lose your wallet, someone might return it to you.

Summary: After a colleague of this Indonesian blogger accidentally left her wallet behind in a public restroom, it was unexpectedly returned to her, money and credit cards intact. To see whether this was just a fluke, or whether it said something about the good nature of Indonesians, the blogger planted 10 wallets in various places around Jakarta, each with a little money and some fake credit cards, as well as a note with a phone number and the promise of a reward for the wallet's return if lost.

Take a guess at how many were returned to their owner, then check here to see if you are overly cynical or too naive.

I'd love to see this experiment repeated with different amounts of money in the wallet, to see if that makes any difference.


One Red Paperclip


From paper clip to house in 14 trades

: Kyle

Hypothesis: That by making tiny trade-ups one at a time, he could start off with one red paperclip and end up with a house.

Summary: Actually, I think the success of this experiment was mostly due to Kyle's incredible enthusiasm and marketing skills as much as anything else. All the same, he did succeed. His chain of trades went as follows:

(image) One red paperclip
was traded for a pen shaped like a fish
which he traded for a doorknob
which he traded for a Coleman stove (BBQ-like thing)
which he traded for a generator
which he traded for a keg of beer and a neon sign = instant party
which he traded for a radio host's snowmobile
which he traded for a trip to Yahk
which he traded for a van
which he traded for a recording contract
which he traded for a year in Phoenix
(image) which he traded for an afternoon with Alice Cooper
which he traded for a KISS snowglobe
which he traded for a role in a movie
which he traded for a house!

Way to go, Kyle!

Daily photo project


Participants: JK and 178 other people (according to YouTube).

Hypothesis: I'm not sure they really have one. This is really more art than science.

Summary: This is an experiment that seems absurdly popular, considering the hassle of taking your own picture every day for years and amalgamating them all into a slide show. The guy who I believe has been at it the longest is JK, who started in 1998, so his slide show is made up of eight years of daily photos. It's kind of freaky in an obsessive sort of way: watching clothes and hairstyles fly by so fast, and subtler changes in his face, skin and age take place so fluidly. I've embedded the video below.

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Lemonade stands are for kids


The bottled water experiment

Participant: Neville

Hypothesis: You can start making money with less than $10 in start-up capital.

Summary: Neville bought a 24-pack of bottled water ($5.99), two bags of ice ($2.58), and enlisted a homeless guy named Barry to help him sell the water on the side of the road. They hawked the water at $1 per bottle and sold out within 30 minutes. He made a profit of $15.43, from which Barry got $10.

A few weeks later Neville reran the experiment, this time leaving Barry to do the selling on his own. The deal was that Neville would cover all expenses (ice-chest, ice, water, and a sandwich for Barry: total cost $49.44), and Barry would do all the work. Then they would split the proceeds fifty:fifty. Unfortunately they picked a cloudy day where no one much wanted to buy the water, and they only sold half their stock (making them $30 each). So Barry got a pretty good deal, while Neville lost $19.44. Neville said he planned to keep on with the experiment, but he doesn't seem to have posted about it again.


Polyphasic Sleep


Sleeping for only two or three hours a day.

Participant: Steve Pavlina

Hypothesis: That it is possible to train yourself (through extreme sleep deprivation) to go into REM sleep immediately upon falling asleep. Since you only need a couple of hours of REM sleep a night, this means you can then drastically cut the number of hours you need to spend in bed. Ideally you end up taking a few half-hour naps spaced throughout the 24-hour period, rather than hibernating like a bear for eight hours on end.

Summary: Steve is the master of the 30 day trial. His original plan was to put polyphasic sleep into practice for 30 days and see if he could adjust to it. It turned out he liked the huge amounts of extra free time it gave him so much that he went on to follow this sleeping pattern for over five months. He kept a detailed log of his experience here.

In the end he gave it up because he found it difficult that his schedule was so out of step with the rest of his family's and with the world at large (having to take naps regularly in the middle of working hours, but being wide awake and active almost all night).

Other bloggers who have trialed polyphasic sleep do not seem to have had the same success adjusting to the pattern that Steve had.


No one cares what you had for lunch


Spending $1 or less on food every day for a month

Participant: Evan

Hypothesis: That you can survive in America on a food budget of $30 per month.

Summary: You can do it. It's just not any fun. Q&A here.

In total, Evan spent $27.28 on food in November. He calculated it saved him $212.22, which is what he donated to a food bank at the end of the experiment. He also lost 18 pounds. And ate a lot of rice.


Diet coke + mentos = human experiment


Participant: Paul Robinett

Hypothesis: Diet coke and mentos mixed together create a fountain. Diet coke and mentos mixed together INSIDE somebody's mouth will create... really funny television.

Summary: See it yourself in this YouTube clip.

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And if you're wondering what really happened there at the end? Here's the follow-up:

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Home is where your soggy sleeping bag is


Living for a year in a ditch

Participant: Original Ditch Monkey

Hypothesis: (1) If he lived in the woods for six weeks, people might be so impressed they would donate lots of money to the Woodland Trust. (2) If he could do it for six weeks, he could do it for a year. (3) If he could do it for a year in the tame forests of England, he could do it in the Amazon jungle.

(image) Summary: Ditch Monkey experimented with living in the woods without any creature comforts, but continued commuting during the day to his office job in London. The six week version of the experiment went so well (after he got used to being snuffled at by badgers, soaked with rain, and hassled by glue-sniffers), that he decided to extend it for an entire year. The whole thing is documented on his blog. He is currently trying to raise funds to go and do the whole thing again... in the Amazon Rainforest.
We, although people keep dropping out so its only me, are going to live in the jungle for a year; sleep in hammocks, catch fish, cook over an open fire, survive off the land that sort of thing. How hard can it be?

There is such a thing as a free lunch


The $39 experiment

Participant: Tom Locke

Hypothesis: That writing random begging letters to companies might persuade them to send him free products.

Summary: Tom had a $39 roll of stamps, and he decided to see if he could grow this investment by writing to companies and asking for free stuff. So he sent letters like this one:
Dear Sir or Madam:
I have to tell you – I love your chicken. It's the best fried chicken around. The breading... I could eat a bucket full of just the breading. Breading and skin. That's the ticket! Anyway, your chicken is outstanding. If I weren't afraid of being arrested, I'd go to KFC to lick other people's fingers – that's how much I like your chicken. Please send me a coupon for a free chicken, so that I do not have to resort to licking strangers' fingers. Thank you in advance,
Tom Locke, fried chicken enthusiast
From 100 such letters, he got free stuff from 35 companies, at a total value of $275. He then auctioned the stuff online, and donated the proceeds to the American Heart Association.


Sweet enough already


Sugarfree for 30 days (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

Participant: StyleyGeek

Hypothesis: That cutting refined sugar out of her diet for 30 days would rid her of her psychological and physical addiction to desserts.

Summary: To hear her write about it, you would think she had discovered the key to eternal life. After a week or so of cravings, relapses, mental fog and tiredness, StyleyGeek adjusted to her sugar-freedom and has experienced the following benefits:
  1. loss of junk food cravings
  2. wanting to eat only when hungry
  3. food tastes better
  4. stable energy levels
  5. unexpected weight loss


Do you really catch more flies with honey?


Testing a variety of pretty-coloured pest control substances.

Participants: L. Prism* and T. H. Morgan Cat, Institute of Pissing About.

Hypothesis: That you will catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Summary: This study really speaks for itself. Especially the conclusions:
An indication of the flies' social standing can perhaps be gleaned from their preference for balsamic over cider vinegar, and brandy over Malibu, although this result is only marginally significant (pooled posh v common, p=0.06, binomial test). It should also be noted that even vinegar drew considerably fewer visits than the bin, and furthermore, at no point did any fly get stuck and die. We conclude that culinary seasonings make an ineffective substitute for conventional insecticide treatment.


Do you need your beauty sleep?


How to become an early riser

: Steve Pavlina

Hypothesis: That becoming an early riser is just a matter of will power and clever tricks

Summary: Steve is a master of the weird-ass yet mysteriously practical experiment. In this series of posts (1, 2 and 3), he documents the way he turned himself from a night-owl to a morning person. In short, his strategy is this:
  1. rehearse setting your alarm, lying down and getting up the second it goes off
  2. use self-talk to tell yourself there is no arguing with the alarm clock
  3. go to bed whenever you are tired
  4. get up at the same time every day, including weekends
And simple as it sounds, it really works. I gave this a 30-day-trial myself, and it cured me entirely of my need (or even desire) to sleep to midday. Whether getting up that early is something you want to do to yourself—well that's a different question.