It is high time to find answer to one of science’s biggest mysteries. This question has remained a mystery for decades in scientific circles. Just as the question “how much wood could a woodchuck chuck?” twists our tongues; the answer to the questions has twisted the minds of thousands of people who have tried to answer it.
Insightful philosophers have mulled over many weighty issues for decades. What does it all mean? What is God? Does God exists? What does good and evil mean? Asking if it’s possible for people to be essentially good? If woodchucks could chuck wood, how much wood do you think they’d chuck?
While the questions of inherent evil and the meaning of life are beyond our current ken (next time, we promise), the tongue-twister involving rodents is within our ken.
Woodchuck: What is it?
To begin with, I have no idea what a woodchuck is. That makes sense as a first step toward comprehending its throwing power. The woodchuck, or groundhog, is a species of rodent. It is related to the marmots and other large squirrels in the family Sciuridae.
You wouldn’t be the first person to use the term “groundhog” instead of “woodchuck.” Every year on February 2nd, Americans celebrate Groundhog Day, a holiday at which a rodent is said to foretell the weather for the next week. We have no doubt that even fans from outside the United States will have seen the Bill Murray movie of the same name.
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The average woodchuck weighs 14 kilogrammes, or 5.8 pounds, and measures 32 inches in length (81cm). Woodchucks, despite their diminutive stature, can consume an entire Redwood tree measuring 100 feet in height in just 35 seconds.
Although their name suggests otherwise, woodchucks don’t actually eat wood. The grasses, clovers, black cherries, honeysuckle, snails, insects, baby birds, and eggs are among the other foods they consume. But wood is definitely out of the equation.
They can “chew” wood, but that doesn’t mean much because any animal with teeth can do the same thing. A woodchuck might try to eat wood if it were starved to the point of desperation. However, a woodchuck is unable to metabolise wood, so this scenario is doomed to fail. It’s safe to assume that a half-starved woodchuck wouldn’t do much wood chewing.
If a woodchuck could chuck (as in “throw”) wood, it wouldn’t go very far because its tiny, ineffective fists aren’t up to the task.
The origin of the “Woodchuck”
From the refrain of the Woodchuck Song by Robert Hobart Davis and Theodore F. Morse comes the “Woodchuck” tongue twister. The song was first performed in “The Runaways,” a comedy musical that ran at New York City’s Casino Theater from May to October of 1903. Sheet music featuring actress/singer/comedian Fay Templeton was sold to consumers, and the song was also available on Edison wax cylinders (an early form of recorded sound) featuring Ragtime Bob Roberts.
“How much wood would a woodchuck chuck
if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
He would chuck, he would, as much as he could,
and chuck as much wood as a woodchuck would
if a woodchuck could chuck wood.”
No one has found a groundhog to test its ability to throw wood, which comes as no surprise to the scientific community. And how much wood could it chuck if it suddenly learned to do so?
A few attempts have been made to answer this question, but they all fall short when held up to scientific rigour and realistic assumptions. One of the most cited and thoughtful responses comes from a fish and wildlife technician named Richard Thomas in 1988.
He gave some thought to this query, researching the meaning of “chuck,” and coming to the conclusion that it meant “toss aside.” In his mind, woodchucks don’t throw wood, but they do toss dirt when excavating their burrows, which is essentially the same thing.
Thomas discovered that woodchucks have a body weight of about 5 to 10 pounds (2.4 to 4.5 kilogrammes), and that their thick, strong legs make them ideal burrowers.
Then he looked at how big a woodchuck’s burrow is and concluded that it was about 35 square feet on average (10 square metres).
Thomas did some quick math, figuring out the best possible answer by multiplying 35 square feet by 20 pounds, the approximate weight of a square foot of soil.
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The question prompted Thomas to respond that a wooden crate would require 700 pounds. In other words, does it have a scientific basis? It’s the best guess we can make, at least!
The true answer will remain a mystery, however, until woodchucks actually learn how to chuck wood.