Mysteries of the morning shower

Related Topics
Science is not just about the big things, like evolution, the Big Bang, genetics, being called Dawkins or Hawking and going on Start the Week to talk to Melvyn Bragg about the big things like evolution, the Big Bang, genetics, etc. It's also about the small things in life, like bathrooms.

Professor Rudolf Reinhardt has specialised all his life in the science of bathrooms. He has never been asked on Start the Week to talk about it. But he is not bitter. He understands why Melvyn Bragg never answers his letters. He thinks that Melvyn Bragg probably does not believe there is such a thing as the science of bathrooms.

And is there such a thing?

"Oh, yes," he will tell you, "there certainly is a science of bathrooms. There are things that happen in bathrooms which happen nowhere else in the world. If you ignore bathroom behaviour, you exclude part of the natural world."

Let's get this straight. Are you talking about the way people behave, or the way things behave in bathrooms?

"Not people," shrugs the professor. "Human behaviour baffles me. It does not interest me. What interests me are things like the behaviour of feet in the shower. You know that if you stand in a bath to have a shower, the underside of the feet sometimes stick to the enamel of the bath? When you reach for the taps or the soap, you take a step forward and fall over because your feet are stuck to the bath!"

Yes, I had noticed this before. But I thought I was the only person it happened to.

"No, no. It is general. But because it happens in the bathroom, nobody mentions it."

What causes it?

"Well, basically, it is some form of spontaneous suction that occurs when dry skin is surrounded by wet precipitation and meets another dry object. Or maybe the combination of water and dirt on the foot makes a glue solution. Or maybe ... "

You mean, you don't know?

"That's right. We don't know. Nor do we know why it is always impossible to get the mix of hot and cold water right in a shower. Always!"

But surely the mix is sometimes right?

"Oh, sure," says Professor Reinhardt, "but it never stays right. Have you not noticed that when a shower seems right it gradually gets hotter or colder?"

Yes, but that is because someone else in the house has just turned a tap on.

"No, my friend. We have experimented with empty houses, with people taking showers all alone, and even then the temperature changes."

I see. What other bathroom phenomena are there?

"Many, many. For instance, there is the strange process whereby, when we step out of a shower, there is always a patch of soapy foam left somewhere on our bodies, no matter how well we have rinsed ourselves."

Yes, very true.

"I call this Reinhardt's Syndrome."


"Because I discovered and named it."

I mean, why does it need a name?

"So that I will be remembered when I am dead. Long after I am gone, people will be about to step out of the shower and they will stop and say, 'Hold on! Reinhardt's Syndrome!' And they will locate one more patch of foam. Incidentally, this also applies to shaving. There is always one more bit, usually on the earlobe. And if there is no foam, then there is always one bit of stubble you forgot to shave."

It isn't really on the same level as Alzheimer's Disease and Hodgkinson's Disease, is it?

"No, but at least it isn't a disease. Have you noticed that medical scientists always have diseases named after them, and never cures? It's always Bright's Disease but never Fleming's Penicillin. Well, having a syndrome is one step up."

Right. Tell us more about bathroom science.

"One of the curious scientific laws governing bathrooms is the fact that a bathroom is the worst place to get dry after a bath. The air is so saturated with water after a bath that when you rub a towel over yourself you are merely moving areas of damp around. Scientifically speaking, get out of a bathroom to get dry.

"There is a classic description of this in a Woody Allen short story. Do you remember it?"

No, I don't think ...

"He's just had a shower, and the warm mist is billowing out of his bathroom into his sitting- room. In an effort to clear it, he opens the window, but instead of the warm mist going out, cold dry air comes in. In the middle of his living-room the cold front meets the warm front and it starts raining on his carpet! One of the great moments in world literature, I think, at least for a bathroom scientist."

If Professor Reinhardt cannot get on Melvyn Bragg, he will be available for consultation here, so please let us have all your queries about bathroom science.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Application Developer / Software Developer

£21000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software development compa...

Neil Pavier: Commercial Finance Manager

£65,000 - £75,000: Neil Pavier: Have you every dreamt of working for a global ...

Neil Pavier: Commercial Analyst

£50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...

Neil Pavier: Commercial Finance Manager

£55,000 - £65,000: Neil Pavier: Do you want to work for an impressive digital ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Kanye West performs live at the Brit Awards 2015  

UK Grime is finally getting the recognition it deserves, but why has it taken so long?

Paul Gibbins

Jihadi John went to my university – so what?

James Tennent
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower