Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Great Arctic Peep Experiment

Editor's Note: This set of experimentation was commenced only after completing the initial installation of our air sampler on the roof of BARC as well as various other lab preparation tasks needed for us to do our "REAL" science. The GAPE 2008 experiment was our way to blow off some steam and have some fun on a Sunday holiday. So yes, mom, we ARE doing work too! :-)

On Sunday, March 23, 2008 we celebrated Easter with a great scientific endeavor. We call this the Great Arctic Peep Experiment 2008 (or G.A.P.E. 2008 for short).

Long assumed to be a species found only in temperate climates, it has come to our attention that a hearty breed of Peeps makes its home in the Arctic. We discovered two varieties - yellow and pink. We hypothesize that the color differences may in fact distinguish the male and female of the species, but because we have no knowledge of how to sex a Peep, this will have to remain conjecture.

Our first experiment involved the observation of the Peep in its native climate. A Peep was found resting in a snowbank and was observed from an appropriately safe and non-interfering distance to document its behavior. After a prolonged exposure to the elements, no adverse effects were observed. The photo shows a pink Peep after 3 hours in its snowy resting place at -15F.

Given the evolution of the Arctic Peep and its adaptation to survive in extreme cold, it was necessary to also test Peep response to heat. It was hypothesized that the Arctic Peep would be quite susceptible to heat. This hypothesis was tested by exposure of the Peep to a propane torch, as seen at left.

We observed an extreme adverse reaction of the Arctic Peep to heat. It seems that the adaptation the Peep evolved to survive the long, cold Arctic winter has left it vulnerable to heat. This response is evidenced in the photo at left, showing the charred and melted Peep after only a short exposure to the heat source.

Unfortunately, this experiment was not able to be performed in triplicate, for obvious reasons.

It is known that certain materials (e.g. one's tongue) will stick to cold metal surfaces (e.g. a flagpole in winter) with surprising adhesive strength. We tested this by placing a Peep on a metal railing. The Peep did not stick to a metal surface at ambient temperature. We hypothesized that this was due to the relatively dry exoskeleton (i.e. sugar coating) of the Peep, and that a moist Peep would have much greater adhesive properties.

After moistening the Peep with water, the Peep did indeed adhere itself to a metal surface, with surprising strength.

Unfortunately, before we were able to free the Peep, a known Peep predator took advantage of its immobile state and consumed the Peep before we were able to render any assistance.

Our next experiment was to test the adrenal system of the Peep and its "Fight or Flight" response to an obvious threat. Anecdotal evidence of previous researchers indicated that Peeps were rather passive and often were observed allowing obvious predators to devour them with no apparent struggle. We exposed several Peeps to three threats - a mallet, a hand axe and a pick axe. Both yellow and pink Peeps were exposed to the threats. The photo at left shows our "Peep Cam" and the view the Peep had of the approaching "predator" armed with the hand axe.

The first Peep was of the pink variety and was threated with a hand axe. The Peep ran from the impending downward swing of the axe. The photo at left shows that the axe completely missed the Peep due to its hasty getaway.

The Peep quickly escaped to the base of a nearby snow pile (as seen at left from the "Peep Cam").

It climbed this snowpile with surprising agility and made an escape to an inaccessable height, far out of the reach of the threatening hand axe. The "Flight" response certainly saved this Peep from its untimely demise.

The yellow Peeps, on the other hand, did not show any Fight or Flight response. They allowed themselves to be smashed and chopped to bits with no apparent effort to run or defend themselves.

The final experiment was called the "Peep Drop". A pink Peep and a yellow Peep were dropped from the top of the BARC building (a height of approximately 38 feet) to observe if Peeps would reach terminal velocity and if one type of Peep dropped more quickly or landed with greater impact than another. Both Peeps traveled with the same velocity and both felt the pull of Earth's gravity equally. Photos of the Peeps, post-plummet, are shown below. Both Peeps emerged from the drop apparently unscathed, although the yellow Peep complained of a slight headache after the experiment. It was given a Tylenol and recovered soon thereafter.

In conclusion, our analysis of the notorious Arctic Peep has broadened our knowledge of a rare species. The efforts of the research team shed new light on their habitat and behavior and open the door to myriad future studies.

1 comment:

Mom of Three said...

We experimented with Peeps and the microwave. We cannot claim that none were hurt, but we will say that their demise was really, really quick.