Kitty Physics

Creation on Display

on October 1, 2013
Featured in Answers Magazine

A milk mustache is undignified. When a cat drinks, it doesn’t splash milk all over its face like a dog. Instead, the cat curls its tongue and delicately touches the surface. Milk then sticks to the tongue like a glass sticks to a wet countertop. As the cat quickly pulls its tongue back, the milk rises cleanly out of the bowl.

At the exact moment when the milk stops rising, the cat clamps its mouth shut, pinching off a drop just before anything falls back into the bowl. Any earlier, and the rising milk would splash on the cat’s pristine whiskers; any later, and Tabitha would go thirsty.

Cats instinctively know the exact frequency needed to quench thirst without losing decorum. For housecats, that’s about four laps per second, though larger cats lap more slowly (lions, for example, average about two laps per second). Researchers who developed the mathematical model of cat lapping discovered that cats of all sizes achieve this nearly perfect balance between gravity and inertia.

Even a cat lapping milk displays the elegance of the Creator’s design!

Cat Drinking Milk

Video Stills: Pedro M. Reis, Sunghwan Jung, Jeffrey M. Aristoff and Roman Stocker

Answers Magazine

October – December 2013

With an updated interior design, the fall issue has it all, from breaking down the big bang to building a better understanding of dinosaurs, from public schools to pinnipeds, and from archaeological discoveries at Çatalhöyük to the astronomical delight of a Christmas comet.

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