“You must be shapeless, formless, like water,” martial arts master Bruce Lee once taught his students. “When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle.”
Cats have something like that too.
“If I sits, I fits.”
There’s no denying our furry feline friends are skilled at stuffing themselves into unimaginably cozy containers—a cat and a cardboard box can make the best friends. And we all know how much the internet loves cats; the world wide web was seemingly built on cat memes and a series of tubes. But this relationship has prompted a deeply philosophical question to bob in the shallow waters of the internet.
Are cats a liquid?
Marc-Antoine Fardin received the 2017 Ig Nobel Prize in physics, an award handed out to the most unusual or trivial achievements in the field, for answering this very question. Fardin used these particular feline habits as a model for his rheologic study, a study of the way matter flows.
Fardin’s research and findings were published in the Conversation, where he posits that “Cats are thus liquid if we give them the time to become liquid.”
Using a standard of measurement that considers the rate of relaxation over time, Fardin maintains, the mere act of slumping into a glass bowl, curling up in a shoebox, or cramming into a coffee mug proves that cats are indeed liquid.
Using common sense, we may come to a different conclusion.
When it comes to the solid state of cat kind, it’s evident that our furry friends are not devoid of form. A cat isn’t going to spill all over if it lands on a table. Then again, if you’ve left a glass of water on that table, you could be in for a mess.
“Asking the question of whether cats were a liquid allowed me to illustrate the use of these dimensionless numbers in rheology,” Fardin says. “I hope that it will make people laugh and then think.”
Watch a few more more funny felines in flux in the video below!
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Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.
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