To kick off a new AtmoLife segment known as our “Monthly Mailbag”, we asked y’all last week on twitter dot com to send your questions, weather related or not.

We received several great questions that we will answer in our inaugural Monthly Mailbag post tomorrow (There’s still time to @ us your questions if you have any!), but one particular inquiry lead us to an answer worthy of an entire article to itself.

While our pal Harrison was alluding to a classic Spongebob Squarepants quote in his joke of a response, the joke’s on him, because the answer is yes.

We know that an opened jar of mayonnaise spoils if left unrefrigerated (i.e. at room temperature) for and extended period of time. In addition, mayo is known to rot extremely quickly when left in the sun (in situations presumably warmer than room temperature). This means that the rate at which mayonnaise spoils, which we will call mayonnactive decay (md), is a function of temperature (T):

md = F(T),

which technically makes mayonnaise a thermometer. The temperature can be directly calculated by the applying the inverse function to the mayonnactive decay:

T = F-1(md).

Calibrating mayonnaise to accurately depict the temperature however, would be incredibly difficult. Knowing the mayonnactive decay rate requires testing mayonnaise in temperature controlled environments. The mayonnactive decay testing could be conducted with a microscope to measure the bacteria growth at a specific temperature and then re-conducted for several more temperatures until F(T) could be interpolated. This method does’t make a lot of practical sense however, because even once F(T) has been calculated, someone using mayonnaise to determine the temperature would need to carry a microscope (or other bacteria measuring instrument) with them at all times, which seems unlikely for the type of person who would use mayo as a thermometer.

To simplify the measurements for our mayo-wielding meteorologists, the temperature can be more crudely estimated by knowing how long mayonnaise under a specified temperature takes to reach the threshold in which a nutritionist would deem mayonnaise as spoiled. We assume that this threshold of spoilage would be the point at which eating mayonnaise makes you vomit, therefore we will refer to the time elapsed before mayonnaise is spoiled as time-to-vomit (t2v), which is also a function of temperature:

t2v = G(T).

Similarly to the inverse mayonnactive decay function, temperature can also be calculated via the inverse time-to-vomit function:

T = G-1(t2v).

There are few obvious pros and cons to using the time-to-vomit method of mayonnaise instrumentation. The first pro: you don’t need to carry a heavy and expensive microscope with you! The second: you get to constantly eat mayonnaise until you vomit, which sounds like the type of thing you’d enjoy doing if you’re the type of person who would use mayonnaise as a thermometer. As for the cons, well, first of all, vomiting is no fun. More importantly, the temperature may not remain constant within the t2v duration, especially when temperatures are cooler (resulting in longer t2v periods), rendering you with a crude estimation of the temperature somewhere between the true max and min temperatures that occurred during the t2v. Your body will also inevitably develop some resistance to the mayonnaise bacteria (or die), in which case you will need to constantly recalibrate the G(T) based on your new t2v values at various temperatures (or you’ll be dead). This is a rather inefficient method of calculating temperature even if your love for mayonnaise outweighs your hatred of vomiting.

In conclusion, mayonnaise is a shitty weather instrument, but still an instrument nonetheless. Sorry Squidward. Despite their impracticality, we are very curious in knowing the mayonnactive decay and time-to-vomit functions. The thrill of pursuing ludicrously irrelevant knowledge is why we decided to become scientists rather than engineers. For this reason, we will award 10 AtmoCup points to anyone who can robustly calculate these functions without suing us.

 

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