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18 August 2006
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Hershey's Sticks box

Perfection-Part II

Yesterday, you will recall, we embarked on an exploration of the following blurb on a Hershey's Sticks package.

Perfectly Sized
60
CALORIES

perstick

It might seem that one day would be enough to exhaust the implications of this seemingly innocuous and simple assertion.  But no!  This is the internet!  This is a blog!  Be thankful that today will be the end; I could have sent the package out for an analysis of the ink, too.

Closeup of Hershey's Sticks

As I said yesterday, we will try to determine the true meaning of this blurb.  On the one hand, the intention of the blurb is to make people buy the product.  Implying that it is "perfect" clearly renders all other products inferior, making this the only one to choose.  But actually asserting that the product is perfect leaves Hershey open to challenge.  So what are they really saying?  I believe the key to Hershey's "plausible deniability" should they be accosted with accusations of inaccuracy is the "ly."  Recall the thought and effort that goes into packaging.  Surely Hershey easily could have used the phrase "Perfect Size."  But "Perfectly Sized" has another, literal meaning, and one with which nobody can quibble.  If there is a manufacturing specification for the confection, e.g., so many grams of chocolate of a particular blend, in a trapezoidal shape with the two non-parallel faces at such an angle, etc., then any stick that meets the dimensional portion of the specification can truly be said to be "Perfectly Sized."  Lacking a chocolate chromatograph or laser interferometer, I decided to confirm only the weight of the individual sticks and try to decide if they conform to specification, i.e., 11 grams each, as designated on the packaging.
Hershey's Stick on triple-beam balanceSubjecting the Sticks, one at a time, to Science, I discovered that, wrapped, they weighed 11.5 grams each, exactly, or, dare I say it, perfectly, to the limit of resolution of my 50-year-old triple beam balance.  I could not detect any difference in weight among these four exemplars of putative stick perfection. I did not weigh the wrappers separately for fear of damaging the samples by uncontrollable consumption. 
Hershey's Stick weight - 11.5 grams
Group of Hershey's Sticks on triple-beam balanceWeighing the remaining four sticks as a group gave 46 grams, again to the limit of resolution, thus not only confirming the scale's linearity, but showing that at least on this scale there is no noticeable variation in mass due to mutual gravitation or short-range nuclear effects.

I believe that this series of measurements constitutes verification that Hershey has succeeded in "perfectly sizing" their product. 

I'd like to make it clear that Hershey isn't unique in their ability to make a consistent product.  Indeed, routine manufacturing processes are often turned into product blurbs.  "Shot from Guns!  Frost Brewed!"  The genius here is to take product consistency and turn it into a "perfect" marketing slogan, and we must admire them for that. 

Consistency is a boon that is not always delivered.  Remind me to tell you some day about the Swiss Cheese Incident.  Not tomorrow?  OK.

2006
Richard Factor