Science at Clemson: Beer pong balls are crawling with nasty bacteria

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Beer pong is an excessively efficient way to drink way too much beer. Turns out it’s pretty gross, too, reports Charlotte ABC affiliate WSOC-TV.

One weekend last fall, a group of students at Clemson University decided to ruin everybody’s fun by testing several ping-pong balls used in various beer pong games around campus. The student researchers found a swarm of dodgy bacteria on those balls.

There was salmonella and listeria. There was E. coli and staph.

Outdoor beer pong is much more of a death wish, notes Sports Illustrated. “The students found the most extra bacteria — three million of the tiny organisms — on balls being used in an outdoor beer pong game.”

Carpeted rooms indoors appear to be the safest beer pong locale in relative terms.

Billy Gains, the owner of BPONG, an organizer of nationwide beer pong tournaments, noted that participants sometimes succumb to “pong flu” during tourneys.

“Maybe there is something there,” Gains said, according to the Houston Chronicle. “But I think it is nothing to do with being sick. I think they are partying all night and get worn down.”

This vital research is part of a Clemson program called Creative Inquiry, which allows students to consider weighty questions — such as exactly how disgusting beer pong is — and answer those questions via scientific inquiry.

According to WSOC, a previous Creative Inquiry project discredited the five-second rule (which asserts that food that falls on the ground is safe to eat if you pick it up within five seconds). Another one demonstrated that double-dipping into salsas and sauces is not only uncouth, but also unsanitary.

Beer pong is a competitive drinking game in which participants throw ping-pong balls across a table with the goal of landing the ball in cups of beer on the other end. If a ball lands in a cup on your end of the table, you drink that beer — and the slew of microbes — in that cup. The game is also sometimes called Beirut.

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Eric Owens