Buttered Cat Princple
November 26, 2007 7:16 PM   Subscribe

Kimberly Miner's award-winning short documentary reveals a fascinating way to negate the effects of gravity. A variant of this effect was first revealed to the world by the wise Internet Oracle over 15 years ago. Also of interest, a discussion of potential problems with this arrangement, and the obligatory 'pedia entry.
posted by CrunchyFrog (10 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The Chinese have combined jellied cats with Neodymium magnets to create turbines 1000 times more efficient than ordinary jellied cats.
posted by Tube at 8:25 PM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Once, I tried to actually try this out in person. But I misread the directions and I simply buttered the cat directly - no toast. So the cat, of course, landed on his legs. The next time, I forgot to use a cat who had legs, so I put buttered toast on a legless cat. The toast, bien sur, landed first. Then, I got bored.
posted by ORthey at 8:29 PM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Wouldn't it be easier to just butter both sides of the toast? Or strap two cats together back-to-back hence inventing some sort of eight-limbed flying claw monster?
posted by markr at 9:58 PM on November 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

I don't care what you're trying to do, it's never easier to strap two cats togther back-to-back
posted by motty at 10:06 PM on November 26, 2007 [3 favorites]

I remember reading about practical applications of the Buttered Cat Principle (if you use an array of them, you can create a high-speed levitating monorail) in the Journal of Irreproducible Results years before the Usenet Oracle was around.
posted by Drastic at 11:44 PM on November 26, 2007

this guy gathered some data about half of this.

I think he may have used science, but it's hard to tell.
posted by aubilenon at 1:26 AM on November 27, 2007

This post is great simply for the fact that it points to the Internet Oracle. Something that I had totally lost to the mists of time (and aging)
posted by sauril at 5:04 AM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh - and my experiment re: cat w/buttered toast failed miserably. I did use my cat that had previously fallen off a 5th story balcony, so its powers of always-landing-on-its-feet may not have been at full capacity...
posted by sauril at 5:07 AM on November 27, 2007

Oh my. So, I'm the guy attributed with writing credit on this video--Kim and I graduated from the same same tiny high school in the same year. This was originally a college application essay I wrote--we all had a laugh about it in senior English class, and a year later she distilled down from its original physics-laden, intellectually-masturbatory form into a brighter and much more entertaining piece, and proved to be an astonishingly talented animator. Last I heard, she was working for an animation studio on the West Coast... seems it's going well.

The internet is a strange and fascinating place.
posted by Mayor West at 6:04 AM on November 27, 2007 [4 favorites]

markr: You make the common mistake of assuming "always" is a definable state with a single value - it's not, it's a range of probabilities. That is, Always(toast) != Always(cat).

In fact, that is exactly what makes the toast-cat combo work where a cat-cat or toast-toast (a single piece of toast buttered on both sides is, after all only a special case of two pieces of toast back to back) combination would fail. To visualise this using the cat-cat example: imagine two cats strapped back to back, and dropped sideways (i.e. legs parallel to the ground). Both must always land feet-first, with exactly the same probability, but clearly this is impossible.

Some solution must be found, and there are only two possibilities:
  1. a "best fit" scenario, where the combined cats fall sideways and land on two feet each.
  2. neither cat lands - in which case feedback occurs, the probability of Always(cat) instantaneously increases to infinity, and the universe ends - or, according to some theories, never exists in the first place.
Luckily, as discovered during practical testing, in the vast majority of cases the first happens.

So it can be seen that, for the theory to work in practice, the whole construct requires the instability introduced by Always(toast) != Always(cat), and the rotational displacement this causes.

Finally, there are two other factors to note:
  • Firstly, because the probabilites are not equal, there is dimensional instability - that is, the construct will not rotate about a single axis wile hovering, but rotate and vibrate along a plane perpendicular to to the landing surface, with its distance from the landing surface depending upon the instantaneous solution to the equation |Always(cat)| - |Always(toast)|.
  • Secondly, there is the potential for an edge-case during initial start-up, where the two probabilities balance exactly before rotational energy is imparted (which acts to destabilise the balance and, through inertia, impart the necessary spin). This case is very similar to the well-studied phenomena of "poling" (sometimes known as "rotor lock") in electric motors, and the solution is similar. Just as in electric motors a smaller start winding is added between poles, so can smaller cat - toast elements be introduced between the larger poles.
Empirical evidence suggests that the addition, at right angles to the primary elements, of a small kitten and a corresponding toast soldier should overcome the problem.
posted by Pinback at 6:13 PM on November 27, 2007

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