I think this is potentially as interesting a field of research as cold fusion and high temperature superconductivity.
We have a significant number - let's say 4 - of functionally identical black hair combs in our house. However, the number that can be found at any one time varies - from zero to four. I don't think it has ever exceeded four - but oddly enough, I think we have only ever bought 3. My hypothesis is that there is a large scale quantum effect that allows these combs to oscillate in and out of existence. Perhaps when they aren't visible in this universe, they have oscillated into existence in an alternate universe. I don't know.
I think Douglas Adams was grasping towards this concept in the realm of pens, in HHGG. He argued that pens were actually sentient lifeforms that disappeared to a realm entirely populated by pens from time to time, thus explaining why pens gradually pop out of normal existence. We compensate for that in our house by buying boxes of pens every so often, and leaving them scattered around the house. However, the phenomenon that Adams describes is definitely real, or we would be knee deep in pens by now otherwise.
The added detail of pens being intelligent lifeforms isn't necessary - it is only necessary for quantum fluctuations of the sort that are normally only seen at subatomic level to occur at the level of small items of office equipment. Of course, physics has always pretty much excluded this possibility for now, arguing that such quantum effects are partly linked to limits of observability and such things. The quantum theory would need to be extended to allow for larger scale interactions. However, if people can come up with a good research proposal, I will personally chip in £5 towards the research.
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