The Law of the Toilet and Stephen Hawking


This is a rant and it’s short. Like my temper sometimes. Or my dollars. (A day late and a dollar short.)


It’s bad enough that toilet paper in public places has to be locked up in plastic boxes. Boxes designed to hold two rolls: a new roll on one side and a roll with five sheets of paper on the other side.


There’s a reason for this. It’s the law. Physics said so.


You may remember learning about the law of the toilet in physics class. This can be written as N > 5. Let N stand for the need of the toileter who gets down to business and 5 stand for the maximum number of toilet paper sheets allowed on the first roll.


Dispenser designers are constrained by this law. They must obey. This means you have to put your hand up the contraption to push open the plastic flap that is hiding the new roll of toilet paper. Said plastic flap only opens about an inch, so you have to use your fingertips to spin the toilet roll in hopes that you can find that loose piece of paper that gets the whole thing rolling. Good luck with that.


That was actually my pre-rant.


Maybe the designers had an Edison moment and all their light bulbs turned on at once, or maybe they heard that some talented people with long, skinny fingers were getting the second roll started and so the thrill was gone. We’ll never know (unless we hunt them down and force them to talk). But one day, they decided to make it easy for us to get all of the toilet paper we want.


They designed dispensers with a small hole at the bottom. These have one gigantic roll of toilet paper in them, and there is always a sheet or two hanging out for you to start pulling. Go ahead, take as much as you would like. Thoughtful, no?


No, because as you pull it through that hole in the bottom, the nice flat sheets of toilet paper are transformed into toilet floss. Yes, just like the floss you use for your teeth, only not as strong.


The two-roll dispensers obey the law  N > 5 and are based on mechanical physics. The new dispensers are based on string theory. I blame Stephen Hawking.