The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 05-13-2011, 11:10 PM
alterego alterego is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
WELCOME TO THE WHITE HOUSE - PUSH BUTTON. What does the button do?

Today I visited the White House. I noticed a very tempting button on the fence behind the back lawn (the standard viewing position, exactly in the center) and decided that it was too irresistible to not push. You can find a picture here:

http://grey.colorado.edu/mediawiki/s...ousebutton.jpg

After I pushed the button I thought the security guards behind me might yell at me or secret service might jump out of the bushes and tackle me, or, in my wildest dreams, Obama would step out and wave. But nothing happened.

Not shown is that there is tubing that would appear to house an electrical cable that juts straight out the bottom of the button box. It curves near the ground and heads straight to the right for a couple of feet before disappearing underground.

I googled a bit and found a few more pics of it but no definitive answer as to what pushing the button accomplishes (also, this was the only photographic evidence of someone pushing it ;-).

So, what does pushing the button do? (nothing, obviously) Why is it there? What was its intended function? How old is it? etc.

Last edited by alterego; 05-13-2011 at 11:10 PM..
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 05-13-2011, 11:13 PM
PSXer PSXer is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
it releases the hounds
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 05-13-2011, 11:53 PM
Sunspace Sunspace is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Location: Near the GT eeehhhh...
Posts: 26,640
It activated the hidden camera.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 05-14-2011, 12:05 AM
TriPolar TriPolar is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Looks like the doorbell to me.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 05-14-2011, 12:05 AM
VarlosZ VarlosZ is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Manhattan
Posts: 6,022
It's a long-running sociological experiment installed by Gerald Ford (or, at least, during his term in office). Its sole purpose is to count the number of times the button is pushed daily, and to compare the results over weeks, months, and years. What, exactly, the executive branch hopes to gain from this information has never been clear. Link.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 05-14-2011, 12:09 AM
Muffin Muffin is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
Quote:
Originally Posted by alterego View Post
After I pushed the button I thought the security guards behind me might yell at me or secret service might jump out of the bushes and tackle me, or, in my wildest dreams, Obama would step out and wave. But nothing happened.
Nothing happened other than that Vladivostok went up in a cloud of radioactive dust. Dude, that was THE BUTTON.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 05-14-2011, 12:33 AM
Muffin Muffin is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
The electrician is scheduled to connect it on 21 May. Come back and press it then.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 05-14-2011, 12:40 AM
Sage Rat Sage Rat is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: Howdy
Posts: 14,807
Quote:
Originally Posted by VarlosZ View Post
If that's what you meant to link, I have to admit that I don't get the joke you're trying to make.

Last edited by Sage Rat; 05-14-2011 at 12:41 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 05-14-2011, 01:36 AM
alterego alterego is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
I think The Onion may have cracked it - every time you push the button Obama has the urge to launch all nukes at once. http://www.theonion.com/articles/oba...ting-ur,20364/
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 05-14-2011, 01:41 AM
Heracles Heracles is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Southern Québec, Canada
Posts: 783
My guess: when you press it, a prerecorded welcome message / historical description is heard through a tinny loudspeaker located just behind the button. Except when it's broken, in which case it becomes a metaphor for the decline of the empire, government shutdowns, etc.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 05-14-2011, 01:44 AM
Dewey Finn Dewey Finn is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 16,971
Quote:
Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
Looks like the doorbell to me.
Realistically, it may be a relic of a time when the White House didn't have a 24-hour guard gate and a visitor might have needed a doorbell to summon someone to open the gate.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 05-14-2011, 02:25 AM
drachillix drachillix is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Quote:
Originally Posted by PSXer View Post
it releases the hounds
I was thinking, "Someone you don't know will die, and a secret service agent will give you a million dollars"

Last edited by drachillix; 05-14-2011 at 02:25 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 05-14-2011, 11:13 AM
Colophon Colophon is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
You didn't receive bacon?
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 05-14-2011, 11:38 AM
Shoeless Shoeless is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: The Sunflower State
Posts: 3,753
This reminds me of the old Steven Wright joke about the light switch in his house that didn't appear to do anything when he flipped it on and off.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 05-14-2011, 12:02 PM
Mahaloth Mahaloth is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: 地球
Posts: 22,141
I really want to know the actual answer. Anyone know?

We aren't the only ones wondering.


This one says:

Quote:
Update 2: According to glynnish, it used to trigger an information recording. Who knows how long ago that was... Also, it apparently did not have the thin black wire before, that's a recent anti-terrorist installation.
Anyone know for sure?
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 05-14-2011, 12:09 PM
robert_columbia robert_columbia is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by PSXer View Post
it releases the hounds
And the bees, and the dogs with bees in their mouths and when they bark they shoot bees at you.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 05-14-2011, 12:22 PM
Mahaloth Mahaloth is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: 地球
Posts: 22,141
Quote:
Originally Posted by robert_columbia View Post
And the bees, and the dogs with bees in their mouths and when they bark they shoot bees at you.
And don't forget the robot Richard Simmons.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 05-14-2011, 01:11 PM
MikeS MikeS is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: New London, CT
Posts: 3,324
Was it a beautiful, shiny button? A jolly, candy-like button?
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 05-14-2011, 01:35 PM
Half Man Half Wit Half Man Half Wit is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Quote:
Originally Posted by VarlosZ View Post
It's a long-running sociological experiment installed by Gerald Ford (or, at least, during his term in office). Its sole purpose is to count the number of times the button is pushed daily, and to compare the results over weeks, months, and years. What, exactly, the executive branch hopes to gain from this information has never been clear. Link.
Aww, I really wanted that to be the real answer.
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 05-14-2011, 01:41 PM
Muffin Muffin is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
I've sent off a query to the White House Office of Presidential Correspondence.
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 05-14-2011, 08:24 PM
alterego alterego is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by Muffin View Post
I've sent off a query to the White House Office of Presidential Correspondence.
Way to kill the thread Muffin. Just kidding, I can't wait to see if you get a response :-)
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 05-14-2011, 08:35 PM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Portlandia
Posts: 29,310
An angel gets its wings.
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old 05-14-2011, 09:10 PM
Muffin Muffin is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
Quote:
Originally Posted by alterego View Post
Way to kill the thread Muffin. Just kidding, I can't wait to see if you get a response :-)
Back when it was Trudeau and Reagan, I happened upon some stationery from the Office of the Prime Minister, so I sent a letter to the Reagan at the White House. I have no idea if there was a response. Darned if I can remember what I wrote, but I recall trying to keep it plausible in an inane sort of way.
Reply With Quote
  #24  
Old 05-14-2011, 09:52 PM
jasonh300 jasonh300 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sage Rat View Post
If that's what you meant to link, I have to admit that I don't get the joke you're trying to make.
You pushed the button.
Reply With Quote
  #25  
Old 05-14-2011, 10:07 PM
Keeve Keeve is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Am I the only one who thinks it odd that the "PUSH BUTTON" instructions are almost totally covered by the button itself?
Reply With Quote
  #26  
Old 05-14-2011, 11:14 PM
alterego alterego is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by Keeve View Post
Am I the only one who thinks it odd that the "PUSH BUTTON" instructions are almost totally covered by the button itself?
It's almost as if a new button was installed in a new spot on the box since the last time the box was painted - note how shiny the button metal is. Perhaps what is now the button box didn't used to actually house the button.

I've had the idea to dig through google images looking for old pictures of the fence. Could provide some clues.
Reply With Quote
  #27  
Old 05-15-2011, 01:47 PM
jasonh300 jasonh300 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
If you just put a button there with no instructions, people will push it. At least, I would.

If you put a button there with an instruction to push it, but offering no explanation why, or what will happen, people will be suspicious and question it and be hesitant to push it.
Reply With Quote
  #28  
Old 05-15-2011, 01:59 PM
Muffin Muffin is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
It's Hillary's joy buzzer.
Reply With Quote
  #29  
Old 05-15-2011, 02:24 PM
Jake Jake is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: NC, USA
Posts: 3,400
Paint it red.
Then DUCK!!..(^_^)
Reply With Quote
  #30  
Old 05-15-2011, 04:18 PM
fiddlesticks fiddlesticks is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Alamo City
Posts: 4,243
Speaking of mysterious items near the south fence of the White House, anybody know what this box is for? I mapped the location roughly as best as I could remember.
Reply With Quote
  #31  
Old 05-15-2011, 04:59 PM
aldiboronti aldiboronti is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Troynovant
Posts: 5,162
It doesn't say Push at all. This is the infamous Pussy Button, a relic from the far distant days of the Kennedy White House. JFK's dates would ring this before being admitted by the Secret Service. (This is also the reason for the diplomatic cover-up of the sign by the button itself.)

Ah Camelot!
Reply With Quote
  #32  
Old 05-15-2011, 05:00 PM
Sunspace Sunspace is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Location: Near the GT eeehhhh...
Posts: 26,640
If there was only one of them, I would have said that it was an unusually-high-end compost bin, but not on a concrete pad like that. Probably a motion detector.
Reply With Quote
  #33  
Old 05-16-2011, 12:24 PM
tanstaafl tanstaafl is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: ATL
Posts: 3,124
Quote:
Originally Posted by fiddlesticks View Post
Speaking of mysterious items near the south fence of the White House, anybody know what this box is for? I mapped the location roughly as best as I could remember.
Looks like a low voltage outdoor lighting fixture to me. Light would emit from the "slits".
Reply With Quote
  #34  
Old 05-16-2011, 12:29 PM
lieu lieu is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Bedrock
Posts: 24,976
Barack now has the most votes on American Idol.

Last edited by lieu; 05-16-2011 at 12:29 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #35  
Old 05-16-2011, 12:51 PM
Rain Soaked Rain Soaked is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
No one really knows what the button does but it MUST be pushed every 180 minutes!
Reply With Quote
  #36  
Old 05-16-2011, 01:10 PM
Red Barchetta Red Barchetta is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2006
You can find the answer here.
Reply With Quote
  #37  
Old 05-16-2011, 01:26 PM
pkbites pkbites is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Majikal Land O' Cheeze!
Posts: 8,192
Push the button Max!
Reply With Quote
  #38  
Old 02-14-2012, 12:14 PM
dougeliz dougeliz is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2012
I don't know what the button is for but it is connected to the roof of the white house and when it is pressed a guard on the roof waves. My kids pushed this a few times until the guard waved them away. All very friendly.

Last edited by dougeliz; 02-14-2012 at 12:17 PM.. Reason: forgot the last bit
Reply With Quote
  #39  
Old 02-15-2012, 11:26 AM
gaffa gaffa is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
It starts a bad movie on the Satellite of Love.
Reply With Quote
  #40  
Old 02-15-2012, 11:40 AM
Hermitian Hermitian is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Quote:
Originally Posted by drachillix View Post
I was thinking, "Someone you don't know will die, and a secret service agent will give you a million dollars"
Definitely
Reply With Quote
  #41  
Old 02-15-2012, 12:17 PM
SirRay SirRay is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2000
Quote:
Originally Posted by gaffa View Post
It starts a bad movie on the Satellite of Love.
Only if you're named Frank. (actually, didn't pushing the button end the show?)
Reply With Quote
  #42  
Old 02-15-2012, 01:07 PM
Maus Magill Maus Magill is offline
Not a real doctor.
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Nolensville, TN
Posts: 6,226
I remember that button.

My wife wouldn't let me push it.
Reply With Quote
  #43  
Old 02-15-2012, 04:09 PM
Peanuthead Peanuthead is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2002
When you push the button you will get a special treat.
Reply With Quote
  #44  
Old 02-15-2012, 05:59 PM
Senegoid Senegoid is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: Sunny California
Posts: 7,740
Quote:
Originally Posted by VarlosZ View Post
It's a long-running sociological experiment installed by Gerald Ford (or, at least, during his term in office). Its sole purpose is to count the number of times the button is pushed daily, and to compare the results over weeks, months, and years. What, exactly, the executive branch hopes to gain from this information has never been clear. Link.
Well, I went to that link and all I found there was a biography of Gerald Ford!
Reply With Quote
  #45  
Old 02-15-2012, 06:41 PM
tadtooornamental tadtooornamental is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rain Soaked View Post
No one really knows what the button does but it MUST be pushed every 180 minutes!
*108
Reply With Quote
  #46  
Old 02-15-2012, 06:48 PM
SmithCommaJohn SmithCommaJohn is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mahaloth View Post
I really want to know the actual answer. Anyone know?

We aren't the only ones wondering.


This one says:

"Update 2: According to glynnish, it used to trigger an information recording. Who knows how long ago that was... Also, it apparently did not have the thin black wire before, that's a recent anti-terrorist installation."

Anyone know for sure?
What could a terrorist conceivably do with that button? Considering that it's easily accessible to the public, its original purpose (whatever that may be) must have been pretty benign.

And what would the addition of a thin black wire stop a terrorist from doing?
Reply With Quote
  #47  
Old 02-15-2012, 08:14 PM
robert_columbia robert_columbia is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Don't push it! It's the history eraser button!
Reply With Quote
  #48  
Old 02-15-2012, 08:55 PM
buddha_david buddha_david is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2011
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sage Rat View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by VarlosZ View Post
If that's what you meant to link, I have to admit that I don't get the joke you're trying to make.
Isn't it obvious? You just got Beaker-rolled, dude!
Reply With Quote
  #49  
Old 02-15-2012, 09:13 PM
davidm davidm is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Near Philadelphia PA, USA
Posts: 6,239
Quote:
Originally Posted by fiddlesticks View Post
Speaking of mysterious items near the south fence of the White House, anybody know what this box is for? I mapped the location roughly as best as I could remember.
You don't want to be near it when the button is pushed, that's for damned sure!
Reply With Quote
  #50  
Old 02-15-2012, 09:15 PM
davidm davidm is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Near Philadelphia PA, USA
Posts: 6,239
Quote:
Originally Posted by alterego View Post
...After I pushed the button I thought the security guards behind me might yell at me or secret service might jump out of the bushes and tackle me, or, in my wildest dreams, Obama would step out and wave. But nothing happened...
You THINK nothing happened. Wait till the next time you try to go through an airport TSA checkpoint!
Reply With Quote
Reply



Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 12:34 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright © 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.