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Laundry: A Quantum Mechanical Approach by: Brian J. Reardon

It has been argued that the act of doing laundry followed the discovery of clothing by only a few weeks. While this fact has been regarded to be fantastically trivial, one can not ignore the enigmas that the act of doing laundry has created. This is especially true in the age of high speed washers and dryers. In the early days, the disappearance of articles of clothing could simply be accounted for by saying that the sock was lost in the river. Unfortunately, such excuses can no longer be used today. The availability of high speed automated washers and dryers has provided a number of fundamental questions that can not be answered using the classical laundry theory (i.e.: the river washed the sock away). Such questions include: Where, exactly does lint come from and why does the quantity of lint change from load to load?
The decay theory easily explains the origin of lint and why new socks tend to release more lint than old socks. However, according to this theory, socks should never completely disappear, or, more importantly, reappear. This clearly contradicts everyday experience. The decay theory easily explains the origin of lint and why new socks tend to release more lint than old socks. However, according to this theory, socks should never completely disappear, or, more importantly, reappear. This clearly contradicts everyday experience. The Quantum Theory of LaundryThe quantum theory of laundry (QTL), however, can explain the fundamental questions of laundry. The QTL is base on three intuitive assumptions. The sock never leaves the enclosed system of the washer or dryer. While the sock is confined to the total washer system it is not confined to the main washing compartment. It may be in the main washing compartment, in the lint trap , or anywhere in between. The sock can be expressed mathematically as a wave function of position and time (Y(x,t)). These assumptions can be mathematically manipulated to provide a number of functions and conditions which are in close correspondence to quantum theory. The first such condition is that the error is observing the position of a sock in a system multiplied by the error in measuring the momentum of the sock as it travels in the system is a constant. This relation is commonly referred to in quantum mechanic circles as the Heisenburg Uncertainty Principle(see equation 2). The implication of this relation is quite profound. If one disturbs the washer by looking in it or if one ends its cycle, the act of observing the sock in the main compartment will increase the error in knowing exactly how fast the sock is moving within the system as a whole. This means that the computerized tracking system in the machine that tries to maintain a statistical analysis of where every sock might be may accidentally misplace a sock somewhere in the washing system. The second result of the basic assumptions of the QTL is that the sock must always be somewhere in the washing system. This implies that the probability of finding the sock somewhere within the system at any time must always equal unity, or, the integral of the sock wave function squared must equal 1 (see equation 3).
P(x) = òY -h The sock wave functions that satisfy the SWE can take three forms that represent the three different possible places the sock can reside within the washing system. The entire system can be pictured as an infinite potential energy well that contains a finite energy barrier. The main washing compartment is represented as a potential well(5), the washing system is represented by the potential barrier(6), and the lint trap is represented by another, but narrower, potential well(7). |