Monday, October 01, 2007

Which weighs more - a pound of feathers or a pound of lead?

Of course the answer is they both weigh the same - a pound is a pound. But this weekend we had another James adventure, and discovered that when it comes to feathers, weight is not the problem - it's the volume that causes all the trouble.

One of the things I like to pick up at auctions is old-fashioned feather pillows. James was in our room on Saturday, and managed to put a little hole in one of the pillows. When a feather poked out, he decided to investigate a little further, and the little hole became a big hole, and before you know it, ALL the feathers were out. Thank God no one turned a fan on at that moment, but when we reached the room, there was a solid layer of feathers on the bed, on the floor, on the chairs - EVERYWHERE. I expect I'll be pulling feathers out of the dvd player for the next few weeks. We swept them up, and to our astonishment found that ONE pillow contained enough feathers to fill up 2.5 giant garbage bags! Once you let air get between them, they're like popcorn - they seem to expand to 4 times their normal size. It makes me wonder what a feather-stuffing factory must look like? Do they shoot the feathers into the pillows and comforter cases under pressure, and then quickly sew up the seams? Or do they pour them in and keep packing them down until the pillow reaches the correct weight? I think the first method would be less messy.

Anyway, despite our best efforts, feathers keep drifting down stairs from somewhere above and I keep picking them up. Sometimes I just throw them out the door or the window, rather than try to carry them downstairs to the garbage can without losing some along the way. The kids have to be checked for feather fragments in their hair before they leave the house for school, and when the last load of laundry came out of the dryer, I pulled out the filter and found it stuffed full with feathers. I sure didn't see them when they went into the wash, but they find their way into everything.


Anonymous Chazaq said...

He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust. Psalm 91:4a

12:07 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have an autistic son, now 39, whose miraclous breakthrough was the result of prayers--and a feather.

At three, he had no language and was prone to almost constant tantrums, often resulting in destruction. He had pulled a feather from his pillow and it became one of those objects autistics fixate on. One evening, he came to us and repeated "Sever, sever!" over and over. When we couldn't understand, found patience enough to go to his room and crawl into bed. We then understood what he meant and found the feather for him.

Today, after years of special schools, wonderful, caring teachers, and therapy for all of us, the autism isn't completely gone. Although he's considered "high-functioning," he has a degree in accounting and would be self-supporting if he could find an employer who could put up with his meticulousness and slowness. I do worry about what will happen when I'm gone. His father already is.

12:56 pm  
Blogger Hiram said...

I have heard that a pound of feathers weighs more than a pound of lead -- since feathers are weighed by the avoirdupois standard, while lead, being metal, is weighed according to the troy scale, and each has a different base.

1:09 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Hiram:

When did lead become a precious metal?

Troy weight is a system of units of mass customarily used for precious metals, black powder, and gemstones.

The troy ounce is the only ounce used in the pricing of precious metals, gold, platinum, and silver...not lead.

12:32 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, but the actual problem is mass, not weight.

The weight of feathers changes with atmospheric pressure slightly due to buoyant force in the atmosphere.

So a more reliable method to compare quantities of lead and feathers is by mass.

So if you are to compare feathers and lead, I suggest weighing those feathers in a vacuum (on the surface of the earth). Your result will still be an estimate since scales and balances are inexact, but since pounds usually refer to weight not mass, and the answer is boolean, as long as each are weighed under the same conditions every time, the answer should still be "neither".

12:59 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


9:56 am  

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