Mysteries of the morning shower

Share
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."

Why?

"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

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ice skating in George Square, Glasgow  

How many Christmas cards have you sent this year?

Simon Kelner
 

Al-Sweady Inquiry: An exercise in greed that blights the lives of brave soldiers

Richard Kemp
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum