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Flipping cat physics
August 26, 2012 2:20 PM   Subscribe

The physics of how cats flip their bodies to land feet first also allows spacecraft to turn. Flipping cats [previously] is interesting. It's even more interesting if your dad works at NASA and you have access to people who use flipping-cat physics to make spacecraft turn in space.
posted by milkb0at (28 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm not following all the science here exactly, but what you are saying is... cats are from outer space?
posted by TwelveTwo at 2:29 PM on August 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


No, it's that we need kitteh spacemens.
posted by elizardbits at 2:42 PM on August 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


TwelveTwo, there was a movie about it and everything.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 2:45 PM on August 26, 2012


I'm not following all the science here exactly, but what you are saying is... cats are from outer space?

Why yes, yes they are.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 2:47 PM on August 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


KITTY SPACEMENS
posted by The Whelk at 2:55 PM on August 26, 2012


This guy is great. I love the accent and the cats and the really big words.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:57 PM on August 26, 2012


You know how I dry my hair when I get out of the shower? That's right, the same way cats flip their bodies to land on their feet.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:02 PM on August 26, 2012


Balderdash. Everyone knows cats have tiny embedded reaction wheels spinning at high velocity to enable them to do this.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:16 PM on August 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Please note: no space telescopes were harmed in the making of this video.
posted by milkb0at at 3:26 PM on August 26, 2012


Does these mean that the old joke about strapping a slice of buttered toast to a cat's back could actually be true?

Hovercars by 2015, I hope.
posted by Sara C. at 4:08 PM on August 26, 2012


Metafilter: access to people who use flipping-cat physics.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 4:39 PM on August 26, 2012


Here's a harder question:

Explain why a spinning ice skater speeds up when they bring their arms into their body...WITHOUT invoking conservation of angular momentum in your answer

Any takers?
posted by Chekhovian at 4:47 PM on August 26, 2012


Explain why a spinning ice skater speeds up when they bring their arms into their body...WITHOUT invoking conservation of angular momentum in your answer

It's hard not to invoke angular momentum because it is involved, but pulling in your arms decreases the moment of inertia, so you spin faster. Divers and gymnasts use this technique, too.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:57 PM on August 26, 2012


But you only spin faster because the angular momentum is the same.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:59 PM on August 26, 2012


Explain why a spinning ice skater speeds up when they bring their arms into their body...WITHOUT invoking conservation of angular momentum in your answer

Before bringing their arms towards their body, all the different parts of the body are moving at the same angular speed (rotations per second). Now, when they bring their arms back, the arms continue moving at the same linear speed (distance per second), but they're now on a shorter "orbit" around the body, so that they execute more rotations per second. Because of this, the arms will jump ahead of the rest of the body, pulling it into a higher angular speed.
posted by spaghettification at 5:00 PM on August 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh my god was this cool! This video almost restored my faith in the usefulmess of YouTube.
posted by theredpen at 5:03 PM on August 26, 2012


but they're now on a shorter "orbit" around the body, so that they execute more rotations per second. Because of this, the arms will jump ahead of the rest of the body, pulling it into a higher angular speed.

Let me rephrase that...your arms want to jump ahead of you, but your shoulders slow them down. By slowing down the arms, your shoulders and your whole body is sped up to the new higher speed.

Cool huh?

Solving the problem by using conservation laws is cool and all, but its kind of like killing a goat with a cruise missile...
posted by Chekhovian at 5:06 PM on August 26, 2012


I meant “usefulness,” but “usefulmess” works too . . .
posted by theredpen at 5:07 PM on August 26, 2012


And I'm impressed...some hard physics problems solved in less than 15 minutes. Maybe I'll start issuing occasional MeTa physics problem challenges...
posted by Chekhovian at 5:08 PM on August 26, 2012


So have any humans mastered the cat-flip in microgravity? Seems like we ought to be able to do something similar with our arms and legs, albeit more slowly. Somebody get Don Pettit on this, stat!
posted by Quietgal at 5:11 PM on August 26, 2012


omg cats in space!!!
posted by homunculus at 5:26 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


At the beginning, when he was talking about the electromagnetic torque thingie, I thought this was going to turn into just another case of glorifying inanimate carbon rods, but thankfully he moved on to the cats.

And cats from outer space? Yeah.
posted by benito.strauss at 6:02 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have no idea how these people got their cats wedged into their spacecraft, or why.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:32 PM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well. Always had trouble parallel parking; maybe I actually might as well ask the cat.... 'The admissible motions of the car in its configuration space are an example of a nonholonomic system.'
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 9:00 PM on August 26, 2012


I'm shocked that there's still any question of the existence of cats in space.
posted by Space Kitty at 9:05 PM on August 26, 2012


Space Kitty: "I'm shocked that there's still any question of the existence of cats in space"

Well, that's because NASA's been censoring them for decades.
posted by pwnguin at 9:53 PM on August 26, 2012


"See that? An electromagnetic field."

Y'know, when I did that in physics lab, the lines were much harder to see. :)

Excellent video, by the way!
posted by blurker at 9:48 AM on August 27, 2012


The Cats of Mars Meet the Toy Car
posted by homunculus at 2:00 PM on August 27, 2012


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