Doing without

Participant: No Impact Man (and his long-suffering family)

Hypothesis: That even a New Yorker can live so (s)he has little-to-no impact on the environment. Or possibly, that someone who tries to live this way and is media-savvy enough can make a shitload of money off their book deal and the movie tie-in. It's hard to separate out this guy's motivations.

Summary: The family has given up using cars, public transport, lifts, electricity, plastics, and... toilet paper. (But not book or movie deals. Did I mention that already? Maybe I'm just jealous.) Their kitchen is like the eat local experiment on steroids.

The experiment seems to be working for the family so far. There's a lot more info on the philosophical motivation behind their choices, on environmental issues in general, and also on their day-to-day lives on the blog. And did I mention there's going to be a movie?

Eat Local Challenge

Participants: A whole heap of people, lots of them listed somewhere on the project's website.

Hypothesis: That it is possible to change your eating habits so that you get the majority (or even all) of your food from locally sources of production.

Summary: For reasons listed here, a group of bloggers decided to try switching to eating locally produced food where ever possible. There are lots of encouraging posts on the group blog, but the really interesting posts come from the individual bloggers who have taken part in one of the Eat Local Challenges. The group runs a challenge a couple of times a year, and people who take part promise to try to eat locally for the month of the challenge.

Lucette took part in May 2006 and documented her experience on her blog. So did Vi, with posts about it here, here and here. Other bloggers who took part last year are listed here. Most of them seemed to find it a positive and worthwhile experience, if only because you get a chance to learn about what grows (and what doesn't!) in your local area.

For anyone who's interested, this year's Eat Local Challenge will be in September.

How cynical are you?

Finders keepers

: Indonesia Anonymus

Hypothesis: If you lose your wallet, someone might return it to you.

Summary: After a colleague of this Indonesian blogger accidentally left her wallet behind in a public restroom, it was unexpectedly returned to her, money and credit cards intact. To see whether this was just a fluke, or whether it said something about the good nature of Indonesians, the blogger planted 10 wallets in various places around Jakarta, each with a little money and some fake credit cards, as well as a note with a phone number and the promise of a reward for the wallet's return if lost.

Take a guess at how many were returned to their owner, then check here to see if you are overly cynical or too naive.

I'd love to see this experiment repeated with different amounts of money in the wallet, to see if that makes any difference.

One Red Paperclip

From paper clip to house in 14 trades

: Kyle

Hypothesis: That by making tiny trade-ups one at a time, he could start off with one red paperclip and end up with a house.

Summary: Actually, I think the success of this experiment was mostly due to Kyle's incredible enthusiasm and marketing skills as much as anything else. All the same, he did succeed. His chain of trades went as follows:

One red paperclip
was traded for a pen shaped like a fish
which he traded for a doorknob
which he traded for a Coleman stove (BBQ-like thing)
which he traded for a generator
which he traded for a keg of beer and a neon sign = instant party
which he traded for a radio host's snowmobile
which he traded for a trip to Yahk
which he traded for a van
which he traded for a recording contract
which he traded for a year in Phoenix
which he traded for an afternoon with Alice Cooper
which he traded for a KISS snowglobe
which he traded for a role in a movie
which he traded for a house!

Way to go, Kyle!

Daily photo project

Participants: JK and 178 other people (according to YouTube).

Hypothesis: I'm not sure they really have one. This is really more art than science.

Summary: This is an experiment that seems absurdly popular, considering the hassle of taking your own picture every day for years and amalgamating them all into a slide show. The guy who I believe has been at it the longest is JK, who started in 1998, so his slide show is made up of eight years of daily photos. It's kind of freaky in an obsessive sort of way: watching clothes and hairstyles fly by so fast, and subtler changes in his face, skin and age take place so fluidly. I've embedded the video below.

Lemonade stands are for kids

The bottled water experiment

Participant: Neville

Hypothesis: You can start making money with less than $10 in start-up capital.

Summary: Neville bought a 24-pack of bottled water ($5.99), two bags of ice ($2.58), and enlisted a homeless guy named Barry to help him sell the water on the side of the road. They hawked the water at $1 per bottle and sold out within 30 minutes. He made a profit of $15.43, from which Barry got $10.

A few weeks later Neville reran the experiment, this time leaving Barry to do the selling on his own. The deal was that Neville would cover all expenses (ice-chest, ice, water, and a sandwich for Barry: total cost $49.44), and Barry would do all the work. Then they would split the proceeds fifty:fifty. Unfortunately they picked a cloudy day where no one much wanted to buy the water, and they only sold half their stock (making them $30 each). So Barry got a pretty good deal, while Neville lost $19.44. Neville said he planned to keep on with the experiment, but he doesn't seem to have posted about it again.

Polyphasic Sleep

Sleeping for only two or three hours a day.

Participant: Steve Pavlina

Hypothesis: That it is possible to train yourself (through extreme sleep deprivation) to go into REM sleep immediately upon falling asleep. Since you only need a couple of hours of REM sleep a night, this means you can then drastically cut the number of hours you need to spend in bed. Ideally you end up taking a few half-hour naps spaced throughout the 24-hour period, rather than hibernating like a bear for eight hours on end.

Summary: Steve is the master of the 30 day trial. His original plan was to put polyphasic sleep into practice for 30 days and see if he could adjust to it. It turned out he liked the huge amounts of extra free time it gave him so much that he went on to follow this sleeping pattern for over five months. He kept a detailed log of his experience here.

In the end he gave it up because he found it difficult that his schedule was so out of step with the rest of his family's and with the world at large (having to take naps regularly in the middle of working hours, but being wide awake and active almost all night).

Other bloggers who have trialed polyphasic sleep do not seem to have had the same success adjusting to the pattern that Steve had.