When it comes to science on the high school level, the neophyte participants are not as strait-jacketed by standard paradigms and topics as are the adult scientific careerists. Some of that is due to the constraints imposed by the scientific journals; and some by the shaping of the scientist that is part of the graduate school experience.
In short, they want the new scientists to color between the lines, and not go too far off the beaten path.
Now a lot of that makes for good science, ultimately; but it can be limiting at times.
High school students have not learned all the constraints; so they may show some radical departures from the usual. Just visit a typical science fair for students and be amazed at the creativity there.
Three of us, Missy, Bernadette, and Angel (moi) were planning on a collaboration experiment; a risky thing, as often doing that usually means one of the group does 90% of the work. But we knew each other, and trusted each other.
Missy remarked on patent leather shoes; and this led to the often-cited bit of urban legend that nuns would tell girls should not wear black patent leather shoes, lest reflection off of them would expose a view of their panties. In fact, no one had ever heard of an actual example of this taking place; but it's an often-enough told story that it even resulted in a title of a play. (Jean wearers: no worries!)
The problem with this story is that, although it is often told, no credible source spelled out which nun gave that advice regarding patent leather shoes.
So, to ease the anxieties of our peers, and to provide strategic support for the patent leather shoe industry, we decided to subject this hypothesis to an empirical test.
Each of us would wear six different colored and styled panties, while the other two would attempt to discern what the test subject was wearing under two skirts while attempting to do so by using reflections from the shoes. One of the skirts was mid-calf length, about the length normally found with Catholic school uniforms; the other was a mini. This was to control for possible differences in lighting conditions. A total of 18 panty styles and colors were used under those viewing conditions. In each case, the viewer stated whether she could see anything, and describe its color or style. After the perceptual judgments were made, the wearer would display what was worn.*
The results (Number of correct reports out of a maximum of eighteen):
Long Skirt Miniskirt
Bikini 0 3
Full 0 0
We concluded that there was no reason to fear upskirt voyeurism if you wore a full skirt while wearing black patent leather shoes. If they do reflect up, they do so in too limited a fashion to be of any danger. However, caution might be taken when wearing a miniskirt.
Our project was rejected, and we were required to be a little less creative.
Now, had we been completely over the top, we might have submitted it to Perception or Perceptual and Motor Skills.
*Dee-Doh and Tom volunteered to be subjects for this project. Also, purists might criticize our failure of using the "going commando" control; but we were Catholic girls.
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