Wunderground Meteorologist Shaun Tanner

The Daily Downpour is Live Today at 4:30 p.m. ET, 1:30 p.m. PT

By: shauntanner, 4:24 PM GMT on October 26, 2010

Listen to the Weather Underground Broadcast Network here!

Cool down with The Daily Downpour, hosted by Weather Underground Meteorologist Shaun and Tim, at 4:30 p.m. ET, 1:30 PT.
Listen here! This shows gives you an opportunity to get caught up on all things weather and atmosphere related. This includes weather going on around the country and atmospheric news. They will also be taking your phone calls at 415-983-2634.


Listen here!

Both shows will be taking your phone calls at 415-983-2634.

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Day 8: We Have Mold!!!! Which One Has It?

By: shauntanner, 9:22 PM GMT on October 20, 2010

Sorry I have not updated everyone on this very important experiment since Friday. I have been out of town on a company trip and just got back yesterday afternoon.

Before I update everyone on the progress of mold or not mold, I wanted to once again respond to some comments made on my last entry. Somebody once again brought up an "experiment" where someone has been walking around with the same McDonald's hamburger in their purse for 14 years. Apparently, the hamburger has remained the same for that many years and the commenter stated that I am simply recreating that experiment. As I have explained a couple of times before, this experiment of carrying a single hamburger in your purse is scientifically flawed. Quite simply, it didn't have a control. Experiments without controls are inaccurate and cannot be used to sway an opinion one way or the other. Therefore, we have designed this experiment to really test what will happen with different hamburgers from different sources in different conditions. Then, after the experiment, we can come to some conclusions.

We Have Mold!!

Since I last checked on the experiment, changes have occurred. Figure 1 below shows the typical picture I have been showing you every update. This is what the hamburgers look like on Day 8.

The big change has come on the homemade hamburger that is in the plastic Ziploc bag. Figure 2 clearly shows that mold has started growing on either the hamburger bun, hamburger patty, or both. In contrast, Figure 3 shows that there is no clear mold on the McDonald's hamburger in the plastic Ziploc bag. This comes with a caveat, however. Before coming to any initial conclusions about the differences between our homemade hamburger and the McDonald's hamburger, I must say simply that I cannot see all of the McDonald's hamburger in the bag. Conclusions cannot be made until the experiment is deemed over.

The second thing of note is that the homemade hamburger out in the open air has some white spots on it (Figure 4). It is only of note because I simply do not know what the spots are. They could be mold, or they could be spots of dried grease. If they are grease, then they shouldn't grow over the next few days. We shall see.




Figure 1. What the hamburgers look like on Day 8.


Figure 2. Mold has started to grow in the homemade hamburger in the plastic Ziploc bag.


Figure 3. No mold on the McDonald's hamburger in the plastic Ziploc bag.

Figure 4. White spots on the homemade hamburger in open air. Is it mold?

Updated: 9:32 PM GMT on October 20, 2010

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Hamburger Experiment Day 3: McDonald's Responds

By: shauntanner, 6:13 PM GMT on October 15, 2010

Day 3

Day 3 of The Great Hamburger Experiment is well underway, so let me give you some of my observations (Figure 1).

1. Both the McDonald's hamburger and store-bought burger that are out in open air have become rock hard. This is to be expected because any moisture that was initially in the hamburger buns and patties has evaporated. The store-bought open air hamburger has white marks on the patty itself, but I believe that that is just dried grease and fat. We will see if that is the catalyst for any mold formation. The McDonald's open air hamburger and french fries have not changed visually at all.

2. Both hamburger buns in the locked Ziploc bags have remained as soft as the moment the bag was locked. No change has been noticed in either of the McDonald's hamburger or the store-bought hamburger, but a few drops of condensed water has shown up on the inside of the bag containing the McDonald's hamburger and french fries (Figure 2).

McDonald's Responds

As I stated in my first blog about The Great Hamburger Experiment, our experiment is in response to the well-publicized experiment by Sally Davies. She bought a McDonald's hamburger Happy Meal and let it sit in the open in her apartment for 6 months. She noticed no change in the hamburger. No mold, no visual change, nothing other than a hardening of the bun, hamburger patty, and french fries.

Basically, the experiment performed by Ms. Davies is not scientifically sound. Our experiment sets out to see what actually happens in a more sound experiment. Will the hamburgers in the bags mold and decompose? Will the hamburgers in the open air decompose? That is what we set out to observe.

As you can imagine, the result of Ms. Davies experiment brought McDonald's bad press. They have responding to this bad press with a press release. In it, they defend their hamburgers by saying, "Mcdonald's hamburger patties in the U.S. are made with 100% USDA-inspected beef. They are cooked and prepared in salt, pepper, and nothing else - no preservatives - no fillers." They also state their hamburger buns, "are made from North American-grown wheat flour," and the, "french fries are made from potatoes and cool in a canola-oil blend."

Here is where our experiment is intertwined with McDonald's press release and where McDonald's should be thanking us a little bit. They state bacteria and mold, "only grow in certain conditions. For example, without sufficient moisture...bacteria and mold and associated decomposition, is unlikely. If food is/or becomes dry enough, it won't grow mold or bacteria.". They further state that any food that lacks moisture will not mold if left in the same environment.

Clearly, this has hit a nerve with McDonald's. To be honest, I am not a huge McDonald's fan but to put forth an unscientific experiment and claim a result is unethical and something McDonald's should defend themselves from. This is where our experiment comes in and McDonald's should thank us for undertaking it.

It will be interesting to see what happens on Monday when I come into the office.

Last thing, someone commented on Wednesday that one of the hamburgers seem to be receiving direct sunlight from a nearby window. Figure 3 is the setup of the hamburgers. As you can see, while there is a window nearby, it is covered by not only blinds, but by a whiteboard that has been turned around. So other than the ambient sunlight in the room (I usually do not have my office lights on), there is no direct sunlight hitting the hamburgers.





Figure 1. Day 3 of The Great Hamburger Experiment.



Figure 2. Condensation on inside of Ziploc bag containing McDonald's hamburger and freen fries.




Figure 3. Layout of the hamburgers in my office.

Updated: 6:13 PM GMT on October 15, 2010

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The Great Hamburger Experiment: Day 1

By: shauntanner, 4:54 AM GMT on October 14, 2010

As I was getting set to leave work Tuesday, I checked my typical news feeds as I normally do to see if there was anything interesting going on. I found this little tidbit from the Daily Mail about a woman who purposely left a McDonald's hamburger Happy Meal on a shelf in her apartment for 6 months. What she documented seems to be extraordinary. She found that there was almost literally no visual change in the hamburger and french fries during that time period. Nothing. No maggots, no mold, nothing. At face value, that should sound disturbing. Organic matter should accumulate mold at a somewhat short period of time and gradually decompose. I am sure we have all had the experience of cleaning out the break shelf in our houses only to find a mold loaf in the back. We prepare ourselves for the stink, grab the decomposing bag and quickly usher it to the closest garbage bin. This is what organic matter should do. But, Sally Davies experiment seems to come to the conclusion that McDonald's hamburgers don't behave as most organic matter does. Or do they?

The Experiment Begins

I passed the article on to Helen, a Weather Underground graphic designer. She quickly responded via instant messager..."ew". She recommended I pull Rob Carver, resident Weather Underground PhD and smart guy. He took one look at the article and instantly declared it invalid. When I asked him why, he made a very good and important point with just one word. Control.

You see, Ms. Davies' experiment is bogus because she did not present a control along with her experiment. At face value, we can realistically ask the question, "How do you know that every hamburger doesn't act like that."

Good point. I glanced in Rob's direction and flatly said, "you're right, we'll perform the experiment ourselves." He wasn't all that enthused.

So, Wednesday morning I brought my George Foreman grill into the Weather Underground office where I quickly received glances that mimicked the weird looks when I told the office I was going the entire month of May without buying any new plastic. After discussing the potential experiment with other scientists around the office, we also decided that it would be smart to expand the initial experiment. You see, we need to know what actually causes mold. Since mold requires moisture, we planned on buying to hamburger Happy Meals. One of those hamburgers will go into a sealed Ziploc bag, while the other would be out in the open air. We would then repeat this with two store bought, Weather Underground cooked, hamburger patties and buns. So, I went to the local Safeway (grocery store) and bought a couple all beef patties and hamburger buns that will represent our control. We then cooked the hamburgers in my office, promptly stank it up, and sealed one of the cooked hamburgers in a plastic Ziploc bag. The other Weather Underground cooked hamburger was placed out in the open.

I have video to prove the experiment has started the way I have explained. My goal is to take a picture every workday (I am not in the office during the weekend) and document any changes to each hamburger patty.

I know what you are thinking...what does this have to do with weather? I got that question a lot from my coworkers. Truth is, nothing. But, it has much to do with our food supply which, in turn, has a lot to do with how we treat the land where we grow our food. Thus, it would not be a tremendous leap to see that our food, and how it is grown or raised, effects our environment.

My goal is to help you make that connection throughout the next few weeks as we all watch to see what happens to the hamburgers. What do you think will happen? Which hamburgers, if any, will mold? The opinions around the office vary widely.

By the time I left the office on Wednesday, the original story has been picked up by many media outlets. I just hope they catch this slightly more scientific experiment as well.

Here is how everything looks on Day 1

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What Will Hurricane Paula do? Find out on the Hurricane Haven at 4 p.m. ET

By: shauntanner, 4:31 PM GMT on October 12, 2010

Listen to the Weather Underground Broadcast Network here!

Dr. Jeff Masters' show Hurricane Haven will be on the air 4 p.m. ET, 1 p.m. PT to discuss the latest on Invest 97L. Listen here Dr. Masters will give guidance on Hurricane Paula and explaining why Paula is already a record-setter. You can ask Dr. Masters questions by calling into the show at 415-983-2634. You can also send him questions via email at broadcast@wunderground.com. Lastly, questions posed on his blog will also be asked on air as well as those in the chat room on the broadcast network page. Don't miss it!! It should be an exciting day!

After you listen to Dr. Masters, cool down with The Daily Downpour, hosted by Weather Underground Meteorologist Shaun and co-host Helen, at 4:30 p.m. ET, 1:30 PT.
Listen here! This shows gives you an opportunity to get caught up on all things weather and atmosphere related. This includes weather going on around the country and atmospheric news. They will also be taking your phone calls at 415-983-2634.


Listen here!

Both shows will be taking your phone calls at 415-983-2634.

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Live today on the Weather Underground Broadcast Network

By: shauntanner, 6:05 PM GMT on October 07, 2010

Another busy day is in store for the broadcast network today as three shows will air live.

Listen to the Weather Underground Broadcast Network by clicking here!

Wunder Weather Tech today at 4 p.m. ET, 1 p.m. PT

Weather Underground Developers are back today to talk about another segment of meteorology technology. This show is loaded with content and you will learn something if you listen. Listen here to find out.


The Daily Downpour today, Thursday, at 4:30 p.m. ET, 1:30 p.m. PT
Join Weather Underground Meteorologists Shaun, Jess, and Helen for The Daily Downpour today, Thursday, at 4:30 p.m. ET, 1:30 p.m. PT today!
Listen here!

Listen to the Weather Underground Broadcast Network by clicking here!

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Will 97L Develop? Find Out On The Hurricane Haven Today at 4 p.m. ET, 1 p.m. PT

By: shauntanner, 4:20 PM GMT on October 05, 2010

Listen to the Weather Underground Broadcast Network here!

Dr. Jeff Masters' show Hurricane Haven will be on the air 4 p.m. ET, 1 p.m. PT to discuss the latest on Invest 97L. Listen here Are the tropics cooling down? You can ask Dr. Masters questions by calling into the show at 415-983-2634. You can also send him questions via email at broadcast@wunderground.com. Lastly, questions posed on his blog will also be asked on air as well as those in the chat room on the broadcast network page. Don't miss it!! It should be an exciting day!

After you listen to Dr. Masters, cool down with The Daily Downpour, hosted by Weather Underground Meteorologist Shaun and co-host Helen, at 4:30 p.m. ET, 1:30 PT.
Listen here! This shows gives you an opportunity to get caught up on all things weather and atmosphere related. This includes weather going on around the country and atmospheric news. They will also be taking your phone calls at 415-983-2634.


Listen here!

Both shows will be taking your phone calls at 415-983-2634.

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About shauntanner

Shaun Tanner has been a meteorologist at Weather Underground since 2004.

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