by Erik Deckers
American Reporter Humor Writer
February 26, 2004
THE SPRINGTIME PREDICTIONS OF SCIENCE
SYRACUSE, Ind. -- It's official! The First Day of Spring will be March 10th.
At least that's what the Goshen, Ind., College SAPs tell me.
According to an article in the Wakarusa Tribune, my flagship newspaper, the Goshen College SAPs - Scientists/Scholars Advocating Precision - have attempted to predict the scientifically-derived first day of Spring for the past five years.
They're 4-for-4 so far, so I've got high hopes for this year's prediction as well.
Using the Official Maple Tree of Goshen on the college's campus, the SAPS use a Sapometer (pronounced like "thermometer") to compare the strength of winter to the strength of Spring. Winter is represented by a bucket with a stuffed groundhog surrounded by a scientifically-determined amount of ice (i.e. "that looks about right"); Spring is represented by a bucket with a scientifically-determined amount of maple sap collected since February 2nd (i.e. "as much as they could get"). The two amounts are then placed on a special Weighing Apparatus of Science.
This isn't the official name, of course. It just makes me sound like I know what I'm talking about if I say "of Science."
This year, the Head SAPs, Sasha Dyck and Kelcie Glick, weighed the two buckets, and 150 Witnesses of Science watched the scales tip to March 10.
Although more serious (i.e. "boring") scientists may pooh-pooh this sort of experiment as ludicrous and silly, let me point out that they were the ones who said "pooh-pooh" in the first place.
Besides, I am fully confident the SAPS did not just use any old bucket, but rigorously tested, precision-calibrated Buckets of Science.
You just can't argue with Buckets of Science.
According to the Tribune, Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman, who graduated from Goshen College with a Natural Science degree, said his confidence in the SAPs "far outweighed any shadowy superstitions associated with small-brained, ground-dwelling creatures." He then challenged Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania mayor James Wehrle to a fight and vowed to "go medieval" on Mayor Wehrle.
Okay, he didn't really say that last part. However, Mayor Kauffman did challenge Mayor Wehrle to reconsider his reliance on the groundhog for the prediction of warmer weather.
And with good reason. In all the years that Punxsutawney Phil, the famous groundhog/weather barometer has been "predicting" the weather, he only has a 39 percent success rate. At least that's what the Goshen College website of Science says. Punxsutawney Phil's own website gives him a 100% success rate, but offers no scientific proof whatsoever.
Since I live 20 minutes away from Goshen College, I declare them to be correct.
This 39 percent is actually a crucial point, considering there are only two options: "Spring will come soon or it will come in six weeks." This means, statistically, you have a 50/50 chance of getting it right - a simple "Yay or Nay" guess by the sitting Mayor of Punxsutawney would yield a correct result half the time. But Phil only gets it right 39 times out of 100.
In other words, Punxsutawney Phil is less reliable than your basic coin flip.
On the other hand, according to the Goshen College website of Science, the Sapometer appears to have a 100 percent success rate. Never mind that they have only made four complete predictions. 100 percent is still 100 percent.
In 2000, the inaugural Sapometer determined that February 29th would be the first day of Spring, and the National Weather Service recorded a high of 67 degrees in nearby South Bend.
In 2001, March 7th was the predicted day, and the temperature reached the 40s. While some may argue that this is too low to be a Springtime temperature, the fact that many Goshen College students and faculty wore shorts and skirts that day suggests otherwise.
Shorts and Skirts of Science, no less.
The Sapometer stunned the world on February 15, 2002, when it said Spring had already arrived. And last year's "mid-March" prediction prompted the entire Science Department faculty to wear shorts outside, blinding several police officers, who had been called to the campus to investigate "a mysterious glow outside the science building."
For the past four years, Science faculty and students have donned their shorts and skirts, gathered outside to eat Ice Cream of Science, watch the flowers grow, and scientifically scoff at the notion that Spring's arrival can be predicted by a rodent - a non-scientific rodent, no less.
And if they invite me, I'll be happy to join the SAPs on March 10 and report on the results of this year's Sapometer prediction. Especially if they get my favorite ice cream, Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie of Science.