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March 17, 2009 / Jim Fenton

Does Your Chewing Gum Lose its Flavor…

…on the bedpost over night?  That’s the question that my 9 year-old daughter, Celeste, answered in this year’s science project.

Bedpost with gum

Bedpost with gum

The question, of course, originates from a novelty song, Does Your Chewing Gum Lose It’s Flavor (On The Bedpost Over Night), popularized by Lonnie Donegan in the early 1960s.  I’m not sure how the idea of the experiment originated, but we were talking about suggesting it to Mythbusters when it occurred to us that we could just do the experiment.

We started by going to Home Depot for a “bedpost”, and found a table leg that we varnished and mounted to a stand.  We chose three flavors of gum:  Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit®, Wrigley’s Spearmint®, and Bazooka® bubble gum. Test volunteers chewed a piece of each flavor, which was split with half being stuck to the bedpost and half placed in an airtight container.

The next day, the pieces of gum were retrieved from the bedpost and the container and arranged in a randomized fashion on a piece of wax paper.  The test subjects then rechewed each half, and commented on the flavor of each.

While there was considerable variance in the results, the pieces perceived to have more flavor were evenly divided between the bedpost and the container groups.  The flavor differences were generally perceived to be slight.

It’s a little hard to explain standard deviation and confidence levels at the fourth-grade level, but Celeste did understand that the results she got are not sufficient to prove her hypothesis; she would need a lot more data to do that.  I was rather surprised that it wasn’t easier to distinguish the bedpost gum from that stored in a sealed container overnight.

Nevertheless, we don’t recommend leaving your gum on the bedpost overnight.  It’s very hard to get off.  We have considerable experience with that now, having had to clean the bedpost between experiments!sfproj2009

One Comment

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  1. Ellen / Mar 18 2009 10:04 am

    Great post! Great experiment material! I am so enlightened.

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