The big question

“To bin, or not to bin, that is the question”

From the dawn of human civilisation man has looked at the world around him, observed patterns in the changing seasons and the movements of the heavens and asked, “When is bin day?”

Primitive early societies thought of bin day as being unknowable and dependent upon the whims of gods, who were often all too human in their capriciousness and unreliability.

Slow progress was made in the science of determining when the bins would be, but without widespread education and dissemination of printed material the majority of the population clung to religious interpretations of the bin cycle. Up until the reign of James I it wasn’t even possible to read the bin days in English; they were all printed in Latin, giving the clergy control of populace.

Then, one summer’s day in 1687, Isaac Newton was idly wondering if there was space in his bin for an apple core when it struck him that by plotting the fullness of his bin at the end of each day he could make an accurate determination of when bin day was.  His now famous graph (below) allowed him to say with certainty that the bins were done between Monday bedtime and the end of Tuesday.  The age of science had arrived!

bin graph

Although Newton’s theory had some limitations (as his great rival, Liebniz, observed, “Bollocks! If anything my bin’s fullest on Tuesday night!”) by the 19th century the scientific class largely envisaged a mechanical universe where, with the correct formula, one could say absolutely when any bin day in the past or future would be.

Until the early 20th century it was assumed that observed deviations from Newton’s formula would be explained by slight revisions to it, but then a young Swiss patent clerk blew their world apart.  His name was Albert Einstein and he showed that there was no such thing as universal bin-day, but instead that the time depended on the observer’s movements in space.

This was a huge scientific leap forward, but the first death knell for the idea of a deterministic universe.  This theory was dealt a second blow in 1927 when physicist Werner Heisenberg observed, “Hang about! My bin day is a Monday, but that’s a bank holiday. What happens now?”

Since then huge scientific advances have been made in bin theory, from the Manhattan project of the 1940s managing to split bin days into ‘household’ and ‘recycling’, to the complex equations NASA must crunch in order to work out when bin day will be for the astronauts aboard the ISS, as they whizz through all of the world’s time-zones every 90 minutes!

One thing is certain, for the foreseeable future bin day will remain a matter of immense interest and speculation for all of mankind.

About the author: Excel Pope is professor of bin chronology at the University of Twitter. His previous works include, “Bin day is Tuesday”, “Newton: a study of his bins” and “A comprehensive plotting of bin days against religious and secular holidays in 19th century Northumberland”.  His next book, “Why does my neighbour has their bin out on Monday morning?” is to be published in July 2016 by Northumberland County Council Press.


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