Because the ability of socks to disappear seems to be of major concern in the world, I decided to conduct a set of experiments to conclusively prove how socks manage this feat.
I decided to focus on testing previously mentioned theories. To do this, I established environments where every phase of the cleaning cycle could be monitored without interrupting the process itself. I have been by bitten by the observer effect in the past. Specifically, when I decided to track the color of the underwear a schoolgirl who lives down the street from me wore so that I could accurately predict the day's color and be sure to have matching socks so I would have a convenient "in" for conversation. Well, she spotted the surveillance camera and told her father, who told the police and yada yada yada, now I have to put out a sign on Halloween saying "NO CANDY". But I digress.
The first theory I tested was Evolution.
Because the most basic sock is a dye-free cotton, I decided to start with a batch of 20 dye-free cotton socks. After 15 wash/dry cycles, I still had 20 dye-free cotton socks. Either this theory was bogus or I was missing something.
I reread the evolution theory and noticed it mentioned that the socks needed to be exposed to visual stimuli so as to (presumably) give them something to aspire to. I went to the mall and obtained a Soldier of Fortune magazine and then went to my bathroom to obtain a Victoria's Secret catalog.
I then mixed the socks together with the magazines and left them on the floor. A week later, I was reminded of my experiment while watching a commercial for pantyhose and immediately began searching through the various piles of magazines and clothing that constitute the bulk of my apartment's floorspace. After several minutes I found the 20 dye-free cotton socks and ran them through 15 more wash/dry cycles.
Net result: 20 dye-free cotton socks.
Conclusion: Evolution theory is unfounded
The next theory I tested was Sock Gnomes.
In analyzing the documentation provided on the tactics of Sock Gnomes I determined that the best way to verify their existence was by either monitoring their access to the back door of my appliances or by monitoring their entry point into my home. I spent nearly 3 hours searching for the backdoor on my washing machine and failed to locate it so I decided on catching them at a window.
I live in an apartment with only 4 windows - 2 in my bedroom, a sliding glass patio door and the little door peephole. I decided to board over my bedroom windows and patio door to eliminate entry via those portals and I enlarged my door peephole to a two-foot diameter porthole.
I then proceeded to kick through the piles of magazines and clothing on my floors until a couple of hats came to the surface. I placed the hats beneath my new door porthole in the hopes that they would serve to funnel the gnomes into the area I had placed powerful night vision security cameras and RFID signal detectors.
I then initiated the wash sequence and fell into a deep sleep during which I dreamed I won a Nobel prize.
I woke up the next morning and ran to my dryer to count the socks and for a split second I felt an elation I hadn't experienced since the first time I got to second base. ALL THE SOCKS WERE GONE! I had just begun the mad dash to check my camera footage when I realized that the socks were probably still in the washing machine. Yep. That is when I began to wonder why there is an alarm on the dryer but not the washer. Isn't it much worse to have soggy clothes in the morning than it is to have wrinkled but dry clothes?
I transferred the clothes to the dryer and went through the motions of reviewing my security cam footage while I waited for the coffee to finish.
Net result: 20 dye-free cotton socks
Conclusion: No Sock Gnomes
Just as I was about to test the theory of Wormholes, I realized that I needed to do an actual load of laundry. I didn't want the effort to be wasted so I made the load of laundry part of my experiments. I decided to do a load of laundry that consisted of the 20 dye-free cotton socks, the 3 t-shirts I have that still fit, my single pair of blue jeans and all of the underwear that I could see from my coffee machine. Since I was out of laundry detergent, I just added the fabric softener that my ex-wife left me a couple of years ago. The lid just managed to close.
When the wash was over (actually about 2 hours after the wash was over - I missed it because the washer doesn't have a buzzer), I transferred the clothes to the dryer and all 20 dye-free cotton socks were accounted for.
When the dryer buzzer went off an hour later, I put down my X-Box 360 controller and sighed because I knew my experiments were nearly complete and I would not win a Nobel prize. I went through the motions of counting the dye-free cotton socks and was perplexed when the count was complete and only 19 dye-free cotton socks were present. What's this? I initiated an immediate recount. My thoughts were racing. 17..18...19..... THERE WERE ONLY 19 DYE-FREE COTTON SOCKS. I stumbled through the clothing and magazines on the floor in a mad rush to verify that my windows were still securely boarded up. I checked my RFID detectors. Nothing. Silent and steady. So where did the sock go?
Flash forward 2 days. The sock was in my blue jeans. No doubt hurled there by the centripetal forces within the dryer. I also found a black sock in the narrow space between my washer and the wall.
I have a competing theory for where socks go. It is similar to the magician trick that is available online where the website asks you to focus on a card from a selection of 5 cards and then instructs you to click the button when you are ready. When you click the button, you are taken to another page where your card is missing. Magic? Not at all. Because you were so focused on what your card was, you never notice that second page contains 4 new cards - none of which appeared on the first page. And I think that missing socks are a lot like this.