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View Full Version : How many straws would it take to break a camel's back?

Blalron
04-28-2006, 02:53 AM
Since an experiment on a live camel would likely put the animal rights folks in an uproar, just a rough estimate would satisfy me.

Mangetout
04-28-2006, 03:47 AM
If the straw is travelling sufficiently fast, one straw will do it. It would probably be necessary to carry out the procedure in vacuum.

Dervorin
04-28-2006, 06:43 AM
42. Definitely 42. I see you didn't specify size or material of the straws, so the answer is (always) 42. ;)

SentientMeat
04-28-2006, 07:36 AM
The load capacity of a male bactrian camel is 240 kg (http://www.fao.org/documents/show_cdr.asp?url_file=/docrep/x1700t/x1700t05.htm), ie. 240, 000 one gram straws.

I don't, however, know about African or Europea ... AAARRRrgggghhhhh

CalMeacham
04-28-2006, 08:16 AM
Just to nitpick, the saying implies that the addition of the weight of a single straw would break the camel's back, not that the weight carried was made up of straws.

Although there's no reason it couldn't be, I guess.

spingears
04-28-2006, 10:25 AM
If the straw is travelling sufficiently fast, one straw will do it. It would probably be necessary to carry out the procedure in vacuum.
It would probably be necessary to carry out the procedure in a hurricane/tornado.
Witness photos of straws driven thru./into wooden telephone/power poles.

ElvisL1ves
04-28-2006, 11:19 AM
Is anyone else thinking "Mythbusters" ?

kunilou
04-28-2006, 12:41 PM
According to this (http://www.sdearthtimes.com/et1094/et1094s8.html) an 18 x 14 x 36 bale of straw weighs about 55 lbs (about 25 kg.) SentientMeat has helpfully pointed out that a male bactrian camel can carry 240 kg, (about 9.6 bales.)

Since one bale of straw measures about 5.25 cubic feet, that means the male bactrian camel could carry about 50.4 cubic feet of straw. I'll leave it to someone else to work out metric equaivalents.

QuickSilver
04-28-2006, 12:44 PM
Well... I think I'm smarter for having read this.

:smack: ....only on the SDMB...

The Controvert
04-28-2006, 03:13 PM
Actually, the load capacity is not the same as the backbreaking capacity. The quoted load capacity of 240kg is just how much weight a male camel normally can walk around with. It's going to take quite a lot more weight to actually snap the spine of the animal.

SentientMeat
04-28-2006, 04:05 PM
Yes, but then the weight-bearing area of the load becomes the critical factor, and the phrase provides no information about that: if the straws are loaded onto a saddle comprising an extremely sharp knife (ie. an area of less than 1 mm2, maybe a few hundred will separate vertebrae. Spread evenly (over, say, 1 m2, and the camel will be squashed to a pulp by literal billions of straws before the vertebrae separate.

curious11
05-12-2014, 07:13 PM
Actually, the load capacity is not the same as the backbreaking capacity. The quoted load capacity of 240kg is just how much weight a male camel normally can walk around with. It's going to take quite a lot more weight to actually snap the spine of the animal.

THIS!

Also, the animal's back is not similar to a rigid piece of material that will sustain weight X and then fail at weight X plus weight of one straw. The animal's back is made of muscle, connective tissue, and bones. I'm sure one of the animal's back muscles would fail prior to the back breaking, causing the animal to fall over and no longer be in position to find the back breaking weight. Or the leg could buckle leading to falling over, same deal.

I think we should stop using the camel idiom/phrase entirely in favor of the more binary operation of the "drop that overflowed the glass". If you ever played with water and filling glasses, the meniscus fills and then one drop, sploosh!

I found this thread by searching instead of starting a new one.

njtt
05-12-2014, 07:25 PM
Just to nitpick, the saying implies that the addition of the weight of a single straw would break the camel's back, not that the weight carried was made up of straws.

Although there's no reason it couldn't be, I guess.

Not so! The saying refers to the "last straw" as doing the final damage, which most certainly implies that the burden it is being added to already consists, at least in part of straw.

Uh oh, zombie I see!

Flywheel
05-12-2014, 08:04 PM

CalMeacham
05-12-2014, 09:31 PM
Is anyone else thinking "Mythbusters" ?

I can easily see Adam and Jamie going out to build competing model camels, each with a different breakdown method ("Now what breaks on the camel is its spine. I've made a "spine" out of pieces of PVC tubing held together by an elastomer that matches the cartilage "discs" in a camel's spinal column...."), then loading them with weights, culminating in straws that they add one by one until the models snap.

CalMeacham
05-12-2014, 09:33 PM
Not so! The saying refers to the "last straw" as doing the final damage, which most certainly implies that the burden it is being added to already consists, at least in part of straw.

Uh oh, zombie I see!

Not the way I've ever heard it. I only hear of the "straw" that breaks the camel's back. Never anything about "last straw".

I wonder how many straws it takes to break a zombie camel's back?

Although, on this board, it'd be a straw MAN, instead.

Flywheel
05-12-2014, 10:27 PM
Good question! Let's find out.

One,

two,

three

CRUNCH

Three.

teflon_grut
05-12-2014, 11:03 PM
Yes, but then the weight-bearing area of the load becomes the critical factor, and the phrase provides no information about that: if the straws are loaded onto a saddle comprising an extremely sharp knife (ie. an area of less than 1 mm2, maybe a few hundred will separate vertebrae. Spread evenly (over, say, 1 m2, and the camel will be squashed to a pulp by literal billions of straws before the vertebrae separate.

What kind of straw do you come into contact with? A few hundred pieces of straw is what I would picture to be a handful of straw. That's one weak pack animal.

CalMeacham
05-13-2014, 12:12 AM
One, maybe, if the guy who said this is wielding it:

cmdrpiffle
05-13-2014, 03:27 AM
42. Definitely 42. I see you didn't specify size or material of the straws, so the answer is (always) 42. ;)

Snort! Anyone knows it's 44, always 44. Did you NOT account for the hemispheric wave variation in the locations where camels are known to congregate?

Amateur...:D

Dervorin
05-13-2014, 05:30 AM
Snort! Anyone knows it's 44, always 44. Did you NOT account for the hemispheric wave variation in the locations where camels are known to congregate?

Amateur...:D

Whoa. A zombie from my own personal past timeline!

What you, sir, have failed to realise is that the hemispheric wave variation is subject to quantum fluctuation modulation because of the inverse Heliconian Zebber effect. This only applies at sufficiently high camel-straw congregation densities, and is a very esoteric effect, so I'm not surprised you haven't heard of it. This renormalises the answer to the expected value of 42.

And you call me an amateur?

CookingWithGas
05-13-2014, 08:52 AM
The load capacity of a male bactrian camel is 240 kg (http://www.fao.org/documents/show_cdr.asp?url_file=/docrep/x1700t/x1700t05.htm), ie. 240, 000 one gram straws.

I don't, however, know about African or Europea ... AAARRRrgggghhhhhUpdated link (http://www.fao.org/docrep/x1700t/x1700t05.htm)

Doctor Jackson
05-13-2014, 04:33 PM
1, for large values of "straw".

05-13-2014, 04:47 PM
I can easily see Adam and Jamie going out to build competing model camels, each with a different breakdown method ("Now what breaks on the camel is its spine. I've made a "spine" out of pieces of PVC tubing held together by an elastomer that matches the cartilage "discs" in a camel's spinal column...."), then loading them with weights, culminating in straws that they add one by one until the models snap.

And then, at the end of the show, blowing it up.

jtur88
05-14-2014, 02:25 AM
The experiment would need to be done under impossibly rigid controlled circumstances. If the camel were alive and conscious and possessed any measure of free will, it would not be the final straw that would break his back. One could be a couple of straws short of the critical weight, and any very slight physiological change in the camel would cause the breakdown -- possibly just breathing, or swallowing, or maybe even a pulse beat. Or a slight shift in wind or ambient temperature.

Just as bridges do not collapse when one too many cars drive onto them, but when a whole panoply of factors all combine to exceed the capacity of the bridge to remain standing.

bob++
05-14-2014, 06:35 AM
Mark Twain said it was a feather that did the job - (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer )

cmdrpiffle
05-14-2014, 01:27 PM
Whoa. A zombie from my own personal past timeline!

What you, sir, have failed to realise is that the hemispheric wave variation is subject to quantum fluctuation modulation because of the inverse Heliconian Zebber effect. This only applies at sufficiently high camel-straw congregation densities, and is a very esoteric effect, so I'm not surprised you haven't heard of it. This renormalises the answer to the expected value of 42.

And you call me an amateur?

The IHZ effect. How did I not consider it? I shall go to the cliffs late today and do the right thing...

HipGnosis
05-14-2014, 01:53 PM
One of the earliest published usages of this phrase was in Charles Dickens's 'Dombey and Son' (1848), where he says "As the last straw breaks the laden camel's back", meaning that there is a limit to everyone's endurance, or everyone has his breaking-point.
Since it's the "last straw", it can not be the 'first' (and only) straw.

cmyk
05-14-2014, 03:23 PM
Of course the straw that breaks the camel's back will always be the 'last straw', whether it be the first or 17,146,852,311th straw, since any straw thereafter would be the 'first straw after breaking the camel's back.'

Or something.

Celyn
05-14-2014, 05:14 PM
Also, it might be a tiny weak baby camel. Or an old, unhealthy, and weak camel.

Or it might not be a real camel. It might be a camel constructed out of cheddar cheese. Or steel. Or even straw.

Doctor Jackson
05-15-2014, 10:39 AM
One of the earliest published usages of this phrase was in Charles Dickens's 'Dombey and Son' (1848), where he says "As the last straw breaks the laden camel's back", meaning that there is a limit to everyone's endurance, or everyone has his breaking-point.
Since it's the "last straw", it can not be the 'first' (and only) straw.

Invalid hypothesis. As rebuttal, I give the cliche (and Lynyrd Skynyrd album title) "first and last". ETA :P