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The finger on the invisible hand

Koran Claims Believable

Thursday, May 19, 2005

(SNN Piscataway) In the May 9th edition, Newsweek published a story about the Koran being flushed down a toilet by American Army interrogators. The story sparked protests across the Islamic world. Newsweek has retracted the story, but maintains that despite their poor fact checking, accounts of similar incidents have been published before. Still the question remains: How could we get to the point where this story would even be believable?

How could we get to the point where this story would even be believable?

To answer this question is simple: Technology. We must start halfway around the globe at the World Toilet Expo in Shanghai, a city where the 20 million residents use everything from pressure systems in modern high-rises to the classic chamber pot. Technicians for American Standard demonstrated a toilet that could easily handle 14 golf balls.

Surprisingly, toilet performance is not usually measured in golf balls. The standard for measurement is actually the MaP unit used in the Maximum Performance Testing of Popular Toilet Models by W. Gauley and J Koeller. MaP uses 50 gram specimens of soybean paste. Just for a frame of reference, Gauley and Koeller believe that the minimum acceptable MaP performance is 250 grams. This is, of course, based on the British “Variability of Colonic Function in Healthy Subject” study.

Some are questioning the validity of these statements.

The results of the MaP study are interesting. While “Variability of Colonic Function in Healthy Subject” suggests the average maximum fecal size of the male participants is 250 grams, two models, the Gerber Ultra Flush and the TOTO Drake could handle an amazing 900 grams. But the Big Kahuna of the flush is the Mansfield Quantum, handling an enormous mass of 925 grams. It remains to be seen whether the new American Standard model can compete with the Quantum, as MaP does not test prototypes.

Some are questioning the validity of these statements. “They don’t test nearly enough samples, which is understandable because of the expense involved and the time to do this carefully and accurately,” said Pete DeMarco, director of compliance engineering for American Standard. DeMarco’s advice to plumbing contractors is, “Nothing they read in these test reports should overrule the real-world experience they have had with these toilets.”

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