Breaking News: Scientists Identify Mysterious Force Affecting Hydration Hoses
We’ve all been there. You’re in the middle of an outdoor adventure and in need of a snack break. As you take your backpack off and carefully place it on the ground, the bite valve on the hose of your hydration bladder immediately—with a force akin to two powerful rare-earth magnets lining up their poles—springs into contact with whatever nasty surface or substance you very much wanted it to avoid touching. You pause, frown, and move the backpack, only for the valve to defy gravity and flop right against the sweaty arm of your adventure buddy.
The ability of a seemingly benign material like a plastic mouthpiece to be drawn to dirt as if it was light crossing the event horizon of a black hole has remained a mystery for eons until recently, when a team of theoretical physicists from the Hydration Observation Systems & Education (HOSE) Lab finally identified the elusive quantum particle causing the bizarre phenomenon.
There haven’t been many notable breakthroughs in quantum physics since the lauded discovery of the Higgs boson particle at the CERN laboratory in Switzerland in 2012. The Higgs boson is the elementary particle that gives everything in the universe—including you, me, and our hydration bladders—the property of mass. While the discovery of the Higgs boson helped physicists finally understand why and how a hydration hose has mass, they remained perplexed by the inexplicable force that causes the hose’s bite valve to be attracted strictly to undesirable surfaces.
More than a decade later, technicians at the HOSE Lab conducted intense and rigorous tests with a diverse array of hydration bladders made from a variety of materials. They quickly discovered something extraordinary. When a robotic arm released a hydration hose above a one-square-foot piece of sheet metal that contained a three-square-inch pile of deer poop, the bite valve made instant contact with the poop 97 percent of the time (the anomalous three percent error came from the robotic arm not completely letting go of the hose). But when the hydration hose was released above a totally sterile piece of sheet metal, the bite valve stopped and hovered, indefinitely, approximately 3.14159 inches above the metal.
Because a bite valve is typically made of plastic, which has no magnetic field, the electromagnetic force—one of the four fundamental forces—couldn’t be the root cause. Scientists knew some sort of untheorized quantum particle must be at play. Much like researchers at CERN, who identified the Higgs boson by smashing protons together at nearly the speed of light, the genius minds at the HOSE Lab discovered their target particle by having two backpackers hike the Appalachian Trail back and forth until their hydration hose bite valves had completely deteriorated, revealing the subatomic building blocks of the bite valves themselves.
After the quarks, neutrinos, and bosons were meticulously removed, one infinitesimally small subatomic particle remained. In a nod to the groundbreaking discovery at CERN over a decade ago, physicists at the HOSE Lab named the new particle the Big hose-on. Although more research is needed to identify just how the Big hose-on particle interacts with the material world around it, the best and brightest minds at HOSE are hard at work designing a Big hose-on-free bite valve that effectively avoids contact with undesirable surfaces.
“This will be the most significant hydration system development since the advent of the bladder itself,” said an anonymous materials scientist at HOSE. “Imagine living in a world where your bite valve doesn’t touch anything nasty, ever. Will that solve any of the world’s real problems? Absolutely not. But will it make your outdoor adventures, like, way less gross? Absolutely. And that’s the world that we here at HOSE want to live in.”
Now that the Big hose-on particle has been identified, physicists have shifted their focus to the next great quagmire: the mysterious force that immediately sucks any small and round fruit, like a grape, blueberry, or cherry tomato, immediately under the stove when dropped on a kitchen floor.
Dylan Jones spent countless hours poring over quantum physics textbooks to research and write this completely factual and beer-reviewed article.
Feature Image: Shucks, another hose bites the dust—meaning you will, too. Photo by Dylan Jones