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Scientists find bear necessities for winning at Poohsticks


The drawing by E.H Shepard of Winnie the Pooh, as the bear plays Poohsticks

The drawing by E.H Shepard of Winnie the Pooh, as the bear plays Poohsticks

The drawing by E.H Shepard of Winnie the Pooh, as the bear plays Poohsticks

It is a "timeless" game made famous by Winnie the Pooh, Piglet and Christopher Robin, and now a leading scientist has devised a formula to boost your chances of winning Poohsticks.

The game Poohsticks, in which competitors drop sticks into a river upstream off a bridge and see which comes out downstream first, is first mentioned in The House At Pooh Corner by AA Milne published in 1928.

The research, commissioned to celebrate the release of The Poohsticks Handbook: A Poohstickopedia - a new book featuring Winnie the Pooh and friends, written by comedy writer Mark Evans and illustrated by Mark Burgess - reveals the secrets to finding the perfect Poohstick according to a top scientist, and names the best places in the country to play.

The formula disproves the views of more than half of Britons (57%) who believe Poohsticks is a game of sheer luck.

Egmont Publishing joined Dr Rhys Morgan, director of engineering and education at the Royal Academy of Engineering, to equip the 39% of people who already take time sourcing the perfect Poohstick with the formula to ensure they pick the speediest stick to sail to victory.

It comes after a survey of 2,000 British parents revealed that 41% of players take the time to personalise their sticks to ensure they take no chances in knowing exactly who wins.

It turns out that just 11% of Britons naturally pick the right sort of stick, with a third of people (30%) heading straight for a long and thin stick, which according to Dr Morgan is only half right.

The scientist, a father of two and avid Poohsticks player himself, said the main variables that need to be considered when designing the optimum Poohstick include cross sectional area, density/buoyancy, and the drag coefficient.

The perfect Poohstick = tubby and long, fairly heavy (but not so heavy it will sink to the bottom of the river), with quite a lot of bark to catch the flow of the river like paddles - or PP (Perfect Poohstick) = A x ρ x Cd.

Cross Sectional Area (= A) is important and t he greater the area of an object, the more drag it creates. Normally, a large cross-sectional area decreases speed, but when it comes to Poohsticks, drag is key. If more water is able to influence the trajectory of the stick, it will accelerate more quickly. So when it comes to Poohsticks the tubbier, the better.

The density (= ρ) of the stick affects its position in the water. The fastest part of the stream is below the surface, so theoretically, a waterlogged stick which sinks into the water a little will go faster than a stick which is floating right on the surface (where it could be slowed down by wind or other external variables).

The drag coefficient (= Cd) describes the shape of stick and roughness of its surface. Generally, a rough stick will create more drag than a smooth stick, so in general, bark is good. However, according to Dr Morgan, a certain roughness can make the stick apparently smoother, similar to the effect created by dimples in golf balls.

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Meanwhile, VisitEngland has compiled a list of the best Poohsticks bridges alongside the original Poohsticks Bridge in Ashdown Forest in East Sussex.

The list includes bridges from Cumbria to Cornwall, including Sheepwash Bridge, Ashford in the Water in Derbyshire, Morden Hall Park in London, Heale Gardens in Salisbury, Wiltshire, Packhorse Bridge in Watendlath, Cumbria, and Mottisfont in Romsey, Hampshire.

Rebecca Lowe, head of PR at VisitEngland, said: "Poohsticks is a timeless game. From its first mention in AA Milne's 1928 classic, The House At Pooh Corner, to today, it remains a great way for families to spend time together and enjoy England's great outdoors just like Pooh.

"Our recommendations of top Poohsticks bridges are just some of the great spots to enjoy the game across the country, and will hopefully encourage families to get out and engage in some friendly competition over the Bank Holiday weekend."

A familiar image of Pooh as he played Poohsticks with Piglet and Christopher Robin sold at auction for more than £300,000 last year.

The illustration by EH Shepard - one of the most famous images of Pooh - had been in a private collection for more than 40 years.

It had been expected to fetch between £100,000 and £150,000 but finally went for £314,500 - including buyer's premium - at the sale in London by auction house Sotheby's.

Shepard's ink drawing featured in The House At Pooh Corner, for Chapter 6 ''in which Pooh invents a new game and Eeyore joins in''.

It accompanies the closing scene of the chapter where the three characters stand on the Poohsticks bridge as the mood changes from the high excitement of their new game to a more wistful atmosphere.

''For a long time they looked at the river beneath them, saying nothing, and the river said nothing too, for it felt very quiet and peaceful on this summer afternoon,'' Milne wrote.

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