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Someone here in the office reckons that if you put liver and milk in a fridge overnight, the liver somehow 'crawls' towards the milk. I am inclined to think this is rubbish but a casual trawl of the internet suggests there may be a very small movement due to some kind of 'Effect'. I would love to hear the experts' opinions of this (spurious?) 'fact'.

(I'm not sure (I'm not a scientist) whether the comments here are intended to be funny or genuine: http://h2g2.com/dna/h2g2/F19585?thread=33170)

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it is a spoof. Letting aside the highly unhygienic condition of putting raw liver on a shelf in a refrigerator the only motion might be of contraction because the liver will be cooling and drying . This contraction will be random nd might be towards/away from the glass of milk depending on the random adhesion of the raw liver on the glass shelf. –  anna v Jan 6 '12 at 15:14
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By the way, the responses at H2G2 are absolutely just for laughs. –  David Zaslavsky Jan 7 '12 at 2:12
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This will solve the oil problem - use liver harnessed to vehicles and have a glass of milk on a stick held in front of them. Admittedly it doesn't sound speedy, but soooo efficient...unless it fails when the milk spoils, or the livers rot. Hmmmm. Take along some cows too. :-) –  Rory Alsop Jan 7 '12 at 15:03
    
@Rory: The one I like is the family vacation in an RV powered by a couple windmills on top and methane from the porta-potty on the bumper. –  Mike Dunlavey Feb 29 '12 at 20:42
    
Actually, if you leave the liver there for a few days or weeks it may start to crawl. But by that time the milk has probably gone sour. Maybe liver is attracted by sour milk in the end? :-D –  0xC0000022L Feb 21 '13 at 2:55
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migrated from physics.stackexchange.com Jan 7 '12 at 2:31

This question came from our site for active researchers, academics and students of physics.

1 Answer

The origin of this story seems to be a letter sent to the weird news journal Fortean Times in 1999:

FT129: I’ve just learned a truly horrifying thing, and one which I didn’t believe until I tried it for myself. It was told to me by a work colleague, a keen cook, who wasn’t at all amazed when he discovered it.

Perhaps the best way of experiencing the amazement I felt is to try it yourself, in the following manner: take a good-sized piece of fresh liver and place it on your kitchen work-surface. Place a glass of milk 10-20cm (4-8in) away from the liver, on the same surface. Go away and do something else for 45 minutes.

Upon your return you will observe that the liver has crept a good distance towards the milk, leaving a trail of blood! It’s like something out of a horror movie. How, in the name of all that’s decent, does this happen? Fair enough, it may have (in scientific terms) "something to do with enzymes/diffusion/osmosis/whatever", but this is simply avoiding the issue of how the liver "creeps" (something which I am at present far too disturbed to even contemplate observing). I now have an uneasy sense about my internal organs (although perhaps it’s my nervous system, mounting a coup). Ugh.

We’re all colonies of micro-organisms, but it had never occurred to me that some parts might be well nigh autonomous sub-colonies (if that’s the explanation – and it’s the only one I can think of) – my liver, behaving like a slime mould? It’s upset my perceptions of the Universe! If one put beer in place of milk, would the liver crawl away, to avoid liver damage? If placed near a glass of sour milk, would a stomach turn over? What would attract/repel a kidney? Or is this unique to livers? Is this, in fact, the reason they are called livers?!?

My work colleague shrugged off my amazement by saying, simply, "liver likes milk" which is admirably assimilatory of him, but I am as intrigued and bamboozled as I am dumbfounded and appalled. I want an answer, and I want it now. Any answers? In the meantime: milkmen! Do not park your floats outside butchers’ shops…

Garrick Alder, London."

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quote source

(via snopes)

The author appears to be one of the authors of QI, as you can see here. He specialises in quite interesting stuff (apparently, not necessarily scientifically correct, though).

You can also see this 1999 alt.paranormal thread featuring a (quite hilarious) set of puns (including some by noted skeptic P. Z. Meyer)

This thread mentions someone that asserts having heard the myth in 1972.

From a practical standpoint:

  1. there are no studies that I could find describing this effect
  2. every single mention I found of this myth was always related to disbelief ("someone told me that..."). Only in one case there was someone reporting the effect happening to them, but they were the proponents of the myth
  3. from a physical/biological standpoint I see no easy/possible explanation.

In practice, while I cannot provide strong evidence that it's completely false, I also see no evidence of it being true at all, so I shall go with my gut feeling and refuse to believe it.

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