And you get a plate! And you get a plate! And YOU get a plate! Hewitt’s plate infinity loop, explained (sort of).

I spent more time than I’d like to admit idling away in the back room of Hewitt this past weekend, perched at one of those tall tables. With only two dining halls open at reasonable times and hours of time to waste over fall break, people watching became a fun past time. I watched someone carrying a tray laden with five of Hewitt’s famed grey frisbee plates pass by the soda fountain. Someone else precariously balanced three grey disks on their forearms, shuffling their way out of the tiled tunnel. Piles of plates collected on the trays at the compost and dishware disposal station. Stacks six, seven plates high tilted and swayed as they traveled along the conveyer belt into the kitchen. Even I, with one other friend, managed to accumulate a total of five plates. One each from the homestyle line. One each from the vegetarian/endless cream pasta station. And a smaller plate for salad. It’s too easy to accidentally rack up this many plates without meaning to. Plates for dessert. Plates for fruit. Bowls (plates?) for soup or oatmeal. Plates for a weekend omelette and another for a waffle. Okay, maybe I wasn’t quite people watching. I was plate watching. The sheer number of plates used at a given point by each individual was truly mind boggling. Hewitt too willingly hands out plates for nothing to be brewing behind the scenes. If anything, they should be attempting to reduce the amount of plate usage, just for dishwashing purposes! My investigative journalism brain wished to sniff out such an anomaly. Just how many plates does Hewitt go through every day? What else about these peculiar plates do we not know? 

After lurking on the cushioned bench chairs with too-low tables, counting the number of people coming in and out of Hewitt at 1 pm, which we will call peak meal time, for 2 minutes on a Sunday (incredibly reliable and definitely the proper sample size), about 4 people swiped in. Let’s say that at non-peak meal times, half that number come in. On the weekdays, Hewitt is open for 9.5 hours, and weekends 8 hours, so an average of 9.07 hours per day over the course the week. If peak hours take up about half the time the dining hall is open (4.54 hours, or 272.4 minutes), and non peak hours the other half (also 4.54 hours, or 272.4 minutes), then we can calculate the average number of people that go in and out of Hewitt per day. This is about 817.2 people per day. Let’s take the (also a totally, completely correct sample size) example of my friend and I on Saturday evening. We used 5 plates between the two of us. Let’s assume this principle of 2.5 plates per person carries for everyone who gets a meal at Hewitt. If 817.2 people each use 2.5 plates, then 2043 plates, which we can round down to 2000, are used in a single day. 

2000 plates per day! And though I am quite sure there is a speedy dishwashing operation behind the scenes, it’s still 2000 plates! Let’s say we can cut this number in half due to the powers of dishwashing. That still leaves 1000 plates! 

My theory is that the Hewitt plates follow quantum superposition, the theory that particles can exist in two places simultaneously. There is no other reason they are all so uniformly warped into their famed not-quite-circular shape; no other reason for their seemingly endless supply (unlike the forks). Quantum superposition emerges from quantum physics, which is based around the idea that there will always be uncertainty in our measurements. The more we know about one aspect of a particle, the less we know about another aspect. For example, the more we know about a particles exact position, the less we know about its momentum, or motion. This uncertainty enables quantum superposition to be possible, as the particle is able to exist in two forms at the same time, given its immeasureability. I believe Hewitt’s plates exist in such a dimension, where the hard plastic of these disks possess the quality of superimposed atoms. These plates have the ability to exist in two forms, in two places, at once. These peculiar plates will puzzle quantum physicist for decades to come. Perhaps these plates can serve the great minds of Physics @ Barnumbia in future quantum physics breakthroughs!  

Disclaimer: I am not a quantum physicist. I read two articles in high school and went from there. If you really are passionate about this and want to clarify or explain anything, email Please don’t come after me with a supercollider or something. 

Hewitt Plates via Bwog Staff