1109: Refrigerator

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I want this engraved on my tombstone like the Epitaph of Stevinus.
Title text: I want this engraved on my tombstone like the Epitaph of Stevinus.


Randall proposes the idea of a refrigerator with conveyor belts tuned to different speeds such that food is moved along to the right (main compartment) or left (door) as time passes, with the time appropriate markings letting you know how much time is left until it spoils. When the expiry date is reached, the food will have reached the rightmost part of the refrigerator and conveniently fall into the "Bad" tray at the bottom right of the fridge.

The title text is a reference to Simon Stevin's proof of a problem of equilibrium consisting on balancing a weight on an inclined plane by another weight hanging off the top end of the inclined plane. Stevin, also known as Stevinus, had the proof inscribed on his tomb, and as such the proof is commonly known as the "Epitaph of Stevinus". Randall expresses his interest in having his own ostensibly brilliant idea likewise engraved on his own tombstone.


[Open fridge with four conveyor belts, three in the main compartment and one on the door. There are two more containers on the door, and an ice-box underneath the second conveyor belt in the main compartment. There is a bin at the bottom of the fridge where the conveyor belts all lead to labelled "Bad."]
Top conveyor belt: 3 days ^ 2 days ^ 24 hours ^ 12 hours ^
Middle conveyor belt: 1 W ^ 5 days ^ 3 days ^ 2 days ^ 1 day ^
Bottom conveyor belt: 3 M ^ 2 months ^ 1 month ^ 2 weeks ^
Door conveyor belt: 3 days ^ 1 week ^ 2 weeks ^

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I'm saying this is a bad idea for a fridge. Don't mistake me, I'm an xkcd-fan just like you. But Randall obviously has never seen a full fridge. I mean "full" like packed full with no space for fresh food. That here only works for empty/medium filled refrigerator. And that would be a waste of energy, see sustainable etc. (I have my fridge currently offline). Besides that doesn't solve the more urgent problem in most households: the freezer compartment, which is almost always full. But yeah, I know, this is just for fun. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I would argue that this is also a reference to The Incredible Machine and friends, where many levels revolve around conveyor belts and things on top of them that stir certain actions. Kaa-ching (talk) 10:46, 17 September 2012 (UTC)

Not a chance. The conveyor belts don't look like the ones in that game, nor is there anything else in the refrigerator that has anything to do with that game. 23:00, 30 August 2013 (UTC)

The main problem with this design is that the bad food needs to land softly otherwise it could splash\spatter over the good food. SaintGerbil(talk) 12:17, 17 September 2012 (UTC)

I thought an alternative design for the fridge could be to have the middle conveyor belt attached to the right, leaving a gap on its left and obviously it would move toward the left. This way we could put food on the topmost belt on its left side and the food would travel along that belt then drop onto the middle one, then travel to the bottom belt and finally fall into the BAD bin. Of course we'd have to relabel all belts accordingly. DelendaEst (talk) 12:27, 17 September 2012 (UTC)

The only problem with that is that different foods spoil at different rates (e.g. carrots last for about 2 months while milk is a week at best). The 3 shelves moving at different speeds seems to account for this. --Joehammer79 (talk) 13:38, 18 September 2012 (UTC)
I disagree. I'm with DelendaEst. I presume the premise is that you initially place the food at the appropriate place. Milk might start at the 2-week mark on the shelf, whereas juice might start at the 4 week mark, and ketchup might start at the many month mark. Randall has designed it so you put the food on the relevant shelf. In the left-right-left right scenario, the top shelf might run 3 months to 1 month, and take two months to roll from left to right. Then the second shelf could be 1 month to 1 week, and take approximately 3 weeks to roll from right to left. The bottom shelf would take 1 week to roll from left to right into the "bad" bin. You would just have to put stuff down based on initial expiration date. Ketchup might go on the top-left, while milk might go in the middle of the second shelf, etc. In Randall's version, the food at "2 days" on the top shelf, the second shelf and the door shelf should all reach the bad bin at the same time. Thus, it could all have been on one shelf. TheHYPO (talk) 19:22, 19 September 2012 (UTC)

Most of the stuff I find gone bad is in the bottom two drawers where it has become forgotten, like a half bag of lettuce.--DanB (talk) 14:19, 17 September 2012 (UTC)

Sorry Randall: so much for brilliant... there's a bug in your design. Look at the top rack in the door. There is a chute that would prevent food from falling past when the door is closed. It would need to be rotated 90 anticlockwise in order to work. 21:30, 17 September 2012 (UTC)

  • I see a space -Shine (talk) 02:00, 18 September 2012 (UTC)
I think the anon user is pointing out that the little "ramp" below the door belt would actually roll food into the side wall of the fridge when the door is closed. The ramp should be oriented from the wall of the door towards the back of the fridge (when the door is closed) instead of towards the side wall. so the food rolls from the door back into the fridge and the "bad" bin, rather than rolling into the side wall of the fridge. TheHYPO (talk) 19:25, 19 September 2012 (UTC)
And Shine is pointing out that the middle and bottom shelves doesn't go all the way to the edge of the door. The fridge is designed so that the "BAD" bin is as long as the width of the body shelves plus the width of the door shelves. That way, the food from the top shelf of the door will fall between the middle/bottom shelves and the side wall, and into the front end of the "BAD" bin. 17:55, 5 December 2012 (UTC)

The problem I see is that you would have to place the food back exactly where you took it from, or a little to the right. It still works, but you would have to be very precise. Maybe keep some markers to put on the conveyor belt to mark where the food came from. This way, you'd know where to put the food back. 21:33, 11 October 2013 (UTC)

Or you could install spigots on everything so you never have to pick anything up. Maple syrup, spigot, chicken soup, spigot, miso soup with tofu, spigot. 20:19, 6 June 2014 (UTC)

"Epitaph of Stevinus" should writely be known as the epitaph of Stevin's next of kin. I used Google News BEFORE it was clickbait (talk) 18:59, 20 January 2015 (UTC)

Of course, if your timing was bad something would drop from the door-conveyor while the door was open, splattering almost-spoiled food on the floor. Nitpicking (talk) 19:09, 12 October 2021 (UTC)

The real (and unfortunately unfixable) problem with this design is that expiration dates are not trustworthy. In many cases the food is still perfectly good long after it 'expires'. The only way is to check it yourself. Bebidek (talk) 13:59, 23 April 2024 (UTC)

You want my "fridge update kit", which features a sticker to stick over the word "Bad" that has the word "Check". If you're quick, I can sell it to you at almost no markup! 14:19, 23 April 2024 (UTC)