Friday Weird Science: how much wood could a woodchuck chuck...

Oct 05 2012 Published by under Friday Weird Science

...if a woodchuck could chuck wood? We've all heard the answer to that age-old question: he'd chuck the wood that a woodchuck COULD chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood.

But then you have to ask yourself: how much IS that?

Someone actually found out. Or rather, they MAY have found out. The paper is in the Annals of Improbable Research, and was improbably peer reviewed. It also has highly improbable animal care protocols. So from what I can tell the actual possibility of this study having been done is...improbable.

But they did get a number!

Paskevich and Shea. "The ability of woodchucks to chuck cellulose fibers" Annals of Improbable Research, 1995.

Groundhogs, aka woodchucks, aka whistle-pigs aren't hogs (obviously). Instead they are rodents (of the Sciurid family, which I personally feel to be an awesome name). They live all over the US, and it's pretty common to see them along the side of the road (usually as roadkill, but sometimes you get lucky and see a live one).

They don't ACTUALLY eat or throw wood. Instead, they eat grasses and insects and pretty much everything else at ground level they can get their hands on. But they can, apparently, CHEW wood, and that's where the idea for this study came in.

The authors decided to use the word "chuck" to mean "chew" (I suppose because upchucking is the opposite?), and wanted to see how much wood a woodchuck could chuck. They obtained 12 woodchucks (by "various means" that are not described, I picture some middle aged guy in a suit trying to stalk one), and food deprived them to ensure they would eat the wood. Then, they fed each woodchuck a 2x4 (yes) and watched how fast they ate it.

All the woodchucks ate the wood, none actively attempted to toss it, and none upchucked. They could, apparently digest the wood pretty well, and consumed it at a rate of 361.9237001 cubic centimeteres per animals per day (no error bars, and the food deprivation was nuts, 12 days, leading me to think they didn't REALLY...). They note that, while none of the woodchucks attempted to throw the wood, they probably would have, had they been capable.

So the next time someone asks you, how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? You answer is clear! He'd chuck 361.9237001 cubic centrimeters of wood per day, which is the wood that a woodchuck COULD chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood.

*As the authors have been so gracious as to address the question of woodchucks and wood, I would like to propose to them their next series of studies: how much ground could a groundhog hog if a groundhog could hog ground? I will look forward to seeing the data.

24 responses so far

  • Christina Pikas says:

    If you got me hungry enough, I'd eat a 2x4! Anyhoo around where I grew up there were loads of them just hanging out. Catching one would be fairly easy.

  • chall says:

    wow. I wonder how that passed through the IRB ^^ "we know everyone in the public wonders wo we thought we'd make this experiement"...

    seriously though, they are cute animals. Very cute!

  • Pamela Dodd says:

    Hysterical ... and historical I guess. Thanks for the chuckles.

  • Pat says:

    The street that I live on is Woodchuck so I get asked that tongue twister. Now I have a reply, thank you.

  • [...] you know the metric system, you know just how much wood a wood chuck could chuck if a wood chuck could chuck [...]

  • [...] How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Someone finally tried to find out. [...]

  • DCSF says:

    It's "How much wood would a woodchuck chuck" not "How much wood could a woodchuck chuck". All this attention to the scientific details then you blow the quote that underlies the whole "scientific" effort and story?

    "How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood." - Get it right next time.

  • iuh says:

    peter piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, a peck of pickled peter piper picked, if peter piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, how many pickled peppers did peter piper pick.......... sorry wrong website

  • Count Bleck says:

    My answer to this question is all of it.

  • Ze Upchucking Woodchuck says:

    Could you train a woodchuck to chuck wood?

  • Ze Upchucking Woodchuck says:

    MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

  • Geoff says:

    Very nice, I've always wondered since I sang this song ages ago in school choir.

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  • Chris Hennick says:

    How much weight is 362 cm³? We'd need the species of the wood to estimate it.

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  • Nikolay says:

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  • Clark says:

    It is "how much wood could a woodchuck SCHUCK," not chuck. As you can see from the video, woodchucks do SCHUCK wood. :)