Out of control

A coworker brought in 2 bananas this morning. Both were rather green. He heard somewhere that if you put bananas in a brown paper bag, they will ripen faster. He wasn’t sure where he heard it. I googled it. From what I found, he was right.

Science lesson:

You're strangling our banana! You monster!

Don’t suffocate your fruit. Murderer.

Bananas are one of the few fruits that ripen after they have been picked. Others include avocados, pears, mango, and kiwi. There is a gas, ethylene, which hastens ripening. This gas is emitted by the fruit itself. By putting it in a paper bag, the ethylene is trapped in the general vicinity of the fruit. The paperness of the paper bag allows oxygen, also necessary to help the fruit ripen, to flow somewhat freely around the fruit. A plastic bag will not work. No oxygen flow. Please do not try this experiment with a plastic bag. You will suffocate your fruit. Murderer.

The experiment:

Since he had brought 2 bananas, and he is a fairly intelligent guy, though I will deny saying that, should this ever get back to him, he decided to conduct a proper scientific experiment. Sort of. He placed one of the bananas in the paper bag he, apparently, just had lying about. He left the other banana on his desk, exposed to the elements. A control banana, if you will. Now, it was just a waiting game to see which ripened first.

The problem with his “scientific” experiment was not the set up. Or the lack of a control banana. It was his impatience. He checked the banana in the bag every 5 minutes. This let the valuable ethylene escape every time he opened it, thus contaminating his variable. The control banana seemed to be yellowing faster than the variable banana, contrary to the expected results. But such is science.

The result:

Several hours had passed since I learned of and inspected his experiment. I don’t know whether he was ever able to just let the variable banana be, brewing in its own essential gases.

I stopped by his desk to check on the progress. He produced a still green banana, saying that the paper bag trick did not appear to be working. I asked how this banana compared to the control banana.

“I don’t know. I ate the other one.”



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