Does the door close button in your elevator actually work? In Trapped In An Elevator, one expert said the button was a sham. But after viewers wrote to us disputing that, we decided to run a little citizen science experiment. Dozens of our blog readers and Facebook fans chipped in by putting their favorite elevators to the test, using stopwatches to time the elevator doors with and without a press of the door close button. (Catch up with Part I of this series.)
Here's our own contribution to the debate. Take a look.
So, is the button a total fake? Not necessarily. First, based on reports from our readers, some elevators really do have working door close buttons. Plus, we didn't consider every possible scenario in which a rider might press the button. What if she'd been holding the door open button for a while before pressing the door close? What if a stream of passengers had entered the elevator? What if she'd sent the elevator up to a new floor? What if the elevator was operating in a manual or emergency mode? We only tested one particular scenario in one particular elevator.
More on our research methods: In our first stab at this experiment, we used two side-by-side elevators (we called them A and B) in our sister building at 10 Guest St. Our plan was to open the doors simultaneously, then have the rider in elevator B press the door close button while the rider in elevator A just waited it out. But when we switched the conditions, we learned that even elevators in the same bank aren't necessarily identical: Door close button or no, elevator B always closed faster than elevator A. (Employees of 10 Guest: If you're running late, take the elevator on the left.)
So we took a different tack, and ran the experiment on a single
elevator, using the video to measure the time that elapsed from the
moment the doors opened to the moment they closed again. The doors
bobble a bit on both ends, contributing to our experimental error, but we're
not reporting our results to the microsecond here.