The potato race is on!

Start with a potato any variety and a drinking straw. (Maila Rible photo)

Start with a potato any variety and a drinking straw. (Maila Rible photo)

Maila Rible, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 12:30 PM ET

As winter's icy grip keeps us hunkered down with our sweet central heating, some folks might be starting to feel a bit of cabin fever. Friendly get-togethers can liven things up. But with no barbecues, patios or pool parties on the horizon for the next four months, hosts can be left scrambling for new indoor activities. If the thought of another cloistered Century Club featuring the brew du jour leaves you weeping for the May 2-4, consider something new. Something exciting. Consider hosting a potato race.

The supply list is a short one: Check your crisper for a few potatoes (any variety will do) and raid the cupboard for a fistful for drinking straws. Now you're ready to play.

First you need to set up the racecourse. A low coffee table or even the floor will do. Use something to mark the finish line. Now pass out the potatoes and straws to your guests. The object is to get your potato across the line first, using only the straw to move it. How the game is played will depend on the crowd. Is the group into gambling? Make some friendly wagers. Do you like tasty adult beverages? Make some rules for a new game. For the sports-obsessed a leader board may be in order. Whatever you choose remember you're about to learn some science that should put you out front, so be sure to keep your advantage.

As the race begins, chances are your guests will start pushing their spuds with the straws, yielding some seriously off-kilter courses. Wait patiently for your turn. Then destroy the competition by confidently driving your straw straight through the heart of your tater and carrying it swiftly to victory.

Unless folks are watching carefully, if they try to repeat your action it's likely their straws will bend and break. A closer look will reveal the secret: Using your thumb to cap off the top of the straw before spearing your potato like a doomed piece of pineapple at a luau.

By capping the straw, you trap the air inside. While we move through the air with the greatest of ease, it's still loaded with molecules. As the straw makes contact with the potato, the trapped air is compressed, jamming the molecules closer together and increasing the pressure inside. This increase in pressure pushes on the straw, strengthening it enough so it passes through the potato.

Once everyone understands the trick, the game is probably over. But you can still have some fun reenacting favourite movie battle scenes using the leftover supplies. One other bonus: Potato-filled straws make nifty blowguns for some post-game revelry. Just keep the spud spitting away from faces and fine china.

You Will Need:

  • Potatoes (any variety)
  • Drinking straws

 


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