(excerpt from the laboratory workbook of a second year undergraduate physics student)
Abstract for paper to be published in Journal of Physics D
Title: Determining BMW Z3 coconut storage capacity.
An experiment was planned to determine the maximum number of coconuts that can be stored in a BMW Z3. While suitable progress was made in purchasing the required coconuts, we have yet to locate a BMW dealer willing to lend us a suitable vehicle for the duration of the experiment (approximately a week). We have applied to the Physics department for $80,000 of experimental supplies (BMW Z3 and coconuts), in case a suitable dealer cannot be persuaded.
The choice of vehicle presents a limit to the coconut storage space. While the hardtop Z3 is an obvious choice, current summer weather suggested the more popular convertible. Colour was another limiting factor, since bright red was in short supply. Metallic light blue was considered as a viable alternative colour.
Once a suitable vehicle is acquired, care must be taken not to artificially inflate the interior storage space. Thus, the leather seats must remain where originally placed, and the engine must not be removed. It was decided the vehicle should be filled on a Sunday evening, after thorough road-testing in all urban and suburban environments, to ensure we have a representative sample of the manufacturers work.
Packing would proceed from the floor upwards. The coconuts would be placed in a hexagonal close packed arrangement, since this is the most efficient arrangement for spherical objects. Coconuts are assumed to be spherical, within measurement error margins of plus or minus 15 cm, or about 6 inches. The magnitude of the measurement error is within acceptable margins, and results from a combination of human error, a broken ruler, no access to calipers, and too much access to Bailey’s Irish Cream. Extensive measurement testing has been carried out on the 48 sample coconuts purchased for the experiment, and the two bottles of Baileys.
When the experimental method has been perfected with the BMW Z3, it can be applied to vehicles such as the Jaguar XK8, the Lamborghini Diablo, and the entire Ferarri product line.
We feel it would be of great value to notify the Guinness Book of Records of this experiment. Both BMW and the university would benefit from the publicity, and enough funding could be raised to repair or replace the magnetic hysteresis experiment (which has not worked since late 1963), or buy deodorant for Professor Brown. The increased attendance in his lectures would far outweigh the expense, and you know as well as we do that the magnetic hysteresis results handed in since 1963 have all been identical. It is suspected that the experiment was sabotaged by the psychology department for a long running experiment in the study of undergraduate student ethics.
In conclusion, this is an experiment that will have significant effects on student morale (specifically, mine), university publicity, and grocery store coconut consumption statics. We await approval from the department to begin the research.