Lake Victoria, where the Nile starts, is the second largest fresh-water lake in the world. The only lake that is larger is Lake Superior, in between Canada and the United States.
Now nobody knows for sure who first suggested the great ping pong ball experiment. It might have been dreamed up by some absent-minded, daydreaming inventor. Or, it could have been thought up by some great scientist. Or, it might have been thought up by a little kindergartener in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
But the important thing is that somebody thought of it. And before long, people all over the world were talking about it. The newspapers printed stories about it. Television stations did special feature stories on it. And, everyone, just everyone, expected that the great ping pong ball experiment would happen right on time.
What exactly was the great ping pong ball experiment anyway? How was the experiment to be performed, and what was it supposed to show?
The great ping pong ball experiment took place to show just one thing. The purpose of the experiment was to show that a small, frail ping pong ball could travel four thousand miles down the longest river in the world.
The experiment would end when the ping pong ball reached the capital city of Egypt, Cairo. At that time, a kindergarten student from one of the schools in Cairo would reach down into the Nile, and pick up the ping pong ball that had been thrown into the river way back at Lake Victoria.
Two months. That's how long the ping pong ball would have to travel from Lake Victoria to Cairo. To add some zest and excitement to the experiment, the ping pong ball was to be thown into the top of the Nile River on November 1, 1999. The entire world would then watch to see if the ball could travel the length of the Nile before midnight, December 31, 1999.
But the journey would be a dangerous one for a small, frail ping pong ball to travel. The ball would have to survive at least nine large waterfalls. It would have to survive being thrown against rocks and boulders. It would have to survive getting stuck in the papyrus reeds by