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Aug. 29, 2012

How Cats Always Land on Their Feet

by Leslie Taylor

Click to enlarge images
In a different take on the "cute cat video," a high speed camera records the movements of GiGi the stunt cat as she flips herself over to land smartly on her feet.
 
 
How do cats right themselves without over rotating? Or, as Destin, an engineer and the filmmaker behind the Smarter Every Day video series, rephrases the question: "How does a cat go from feet up to feet down in a falling reference frame without violating the conservation of angular momentum."
 
He writes:
So as simple of a question as this is, it turns out to be a MAJOR POINT OF STUDY in Physics, Robotics, Space Satellite Control, Weapons Development, Biomedical Engineering, etc. It's stumped scientists and engineers since Newton's day....If you don't believe me that this involves some serious math... click here: http://count.ucsc.edu/~rmont/papers/cat.PDF
Destin assures us that no cats were harmed in the making of this video.

 
About Leslie Taylor

Leslie is the online editor at Workboat.com and NationalFisherman.com. She has a background in oceanography and is passionate about getting non-scientists and young people to realize how cool science can be. She is also Science Friday's former web editor.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

Science Friday® is produced by the Science Friday Initiative, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Science Friday® and SciFri® are registered service marks of Science Friday, Inc. Site design by Pentagram; engineering by Mediapolis.

 

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