Your Cat Knows More Physics than You Do

by John J. Miller

And don’t even ask about your dog:

Four researchers have painstakingly filmed, analyzed and determined how it is that a cat can drink water while (unlike a dog) keeping its chin and whiskers pleasingly dry.

The answer involves an exquisite demonstration of physics – where the cat, in effect, balances the forces of gravity against the forces of inertia, and so quenches its thirst.

“What we found is that the cat uses fluid dynamics and physics in a way to absolutely optimize tongue lapping and water collection,” said Jeffrey Aristoff, now at Princeton University but who was one of the four researchers who began their studies out of curiosity at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.