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The science of going topless
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Posted: Sep 8, 2009

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One warm, sunny day this summer, Meghan Pleticha conducted a one-woman experiment in a New York public park. Under New York law, women are allowed to go topless, so long as they do not do so in a way that is lewd or intended to cause annoyance. Something similar can be said for Ohio, Hawaii, Maine, Texas, and the California coast. Ms. Pleticha's relatively unscientific experiment involved taking off her top in a public setting to see how people ? especially law enforcement officers ? reacted. She then wrote up her results and posted them in a very entertaining blog entry called I Did it for Science: Topless in the Park.
Now a somewhat more scientifically rigorous version of this experiment is being proposed.
Hypothesis: An average "critical mass" of approximately 8 topless women (16 breasts total) per acre is necessary in order to trigger "spontaneous boob-outing" (a technical term meaning that one or more members of the general female population within visual range of the topless participants will remove their tops).
The reasoning is that a woman will generally not feel comfortable being topless if she is only one doing so within her visible horizon. Ms. Pleticha's topless experiment, and the fact that relatively few women are seen topless in general public settings, even when it is legal to do so, confirm this. However, if a woman can easily see that other women are topless, and if she is inclined to enjoy being topless, then she will be more likely to avail herself of her legal right to be topless. Events on National Go Topless Protest Day, assorted nude beaches around the world, Spencer Tunick's photo shoots, and nudist groups around the nation all provide evidence that many women do, in fact, enjoy being topless (or even completely naked), so long as other women are doing it too. The only question is: How many topless women/acre is enough to trigger spontaneous boob-outing? This experiment is designed to help determine this intriguing sociological question.
The proposed critical mass of 16 bare breasticles/acre is based on sheer guesswork, along with the fact that an acre is roughly 200 feet square, meaning that it is easy for everyone within an acre to see breast-sized objects and discern the exposure of nipples, provided the area is not heavily forested.
Minimum required materials:
10 women volunteers who are willing to be topless in public
1 notepad
1 pen
1 watch or timer
10 bottles of sun screen
2 or more associates (friends or lovers) to serve as moral support, and to help run the experiment. The male associates may be topless, but all female associates must remain fully clothed so as not to interfere with the experiment.
1 public park or beach, preferably one containing an area with least 40 sun-bathers and/or picnickers (not including the volunteers and their associates) within 100 feet of a central point.

Experimental procedure:
1. One associate is chosen to be the team leader, and another is chosen official data recorder.
2. All members of the team discretely gather at a chosen public location on a warm, sunny day. ("Discretely" meaning: don't all gather at once in a group; try to be as inconspicuous as possible.)
3. The team leader picks a central location and discretely counts the number of people with a 100 foot radius. The team leader should stay in his or her chosen location, since he or she will provide the visible center for the experimental area.
4. The 10 volunteer spread out evenly over the area so that none of the volunteers is more than 100 feet from the designated center.
5. Four of the ten volunteers remover their tops, but otherwise do not behave in any way that is out of the ordinary.
6. After 10 minutes, two more team members remove their tops.
7. After 10 more minutes, two more team members remove their tops.
8. After 10 more minutes, two more team members remove their tops, at which point all 10 team members will be topless.
9. The ten team members should remain topless for the next 30 minutes, totaling of 1 hour for the full experiment.
Data should be gathered throughout the entire hour, noting the exact times that non-participant women remove their tops.
This experiment should be repeated in different locations throughout the various states were toplessness is legal (often referred to as "topfree" states), in order to determine whether the critical mass varies according to any predictable pattern, according to region (urban vs. rural, Coastal states vs. Midwestern states, and so on).
Any teams conducting this experiment are encouraged to submit their results in the form of a comment below.
To help establish more educated guesstimates for the critical mass variable, all women reading this article are strongly encouraged to answer the poll below!
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