Up or Down – Cats in Space

By Anupum Pant

Cat’s righting reflex

Cat_fall_150x300_6fpsThanks to the Vestibular righting reflex, animals like cats are able to land on their feet after a fall. This is great because it helps them avoid injury. In fact, it helps them avoid injuries in a very counter-intuitive manner.

In a study done in the year 1987, researchers found that cats falling from 6 storeys or less usually have greater injuries than cats falling from places higher than 6 storeys. There have been cats who have survived a fall from as high as 32 storeys. It’s so absurd, I had to mention that.

Also cats have been often found falling from high rise buildings due to a phenomenon known as the high-rise syndrome. This happens because cats mostly have a natural attraction towards high places, often get distracted by a prey and fall.

Cats In Space?

All said, there’s no doubt that cats can right themselves pretty well. But to do it, they need to have a sense of what is up and what is down. That sense, of course comes from gravity. What happens to them in micro gravity? A little kid asked me that and I had no answer. Who would have tested that, I thought.

So I checked. To my surprise, cats-in-zero-gravity-tests (simulated weightlessness) have actually been done previously by the USAF medical division and Russian cosmonaut training centre. Here’s an interesting old video of how cat’s natural reflex to right itself by spinning longitudinally fails in a simulated zero-G environment. The video also has confused pigeons flying upside down in zero-G. The whole film can be seen here.

Through experimentation it has been found that when it comes to animals in space, there are three different kinds of behaviours seen among various animals.

The first ones are the kind of animals who freeze in zero-G and wait for the weightlessness to go away. There are others, like cats and pigeons, who start moving about madly, trying to figure out which side is up. In fact, pigeons in zero-G have been seen flying upside down too. And the third ones are who stay calm and find the best way to move around.

Geckos have been seen to take on a free-falling stance in zero-G. Fish and fruit flies are some of the creatures who can deal with zero-G very well.

And if you wish to see some long slender legs before you go, here is a video of frogs in space. The video also talks about aliens entering the earth – tadpoles born outside the earth were brought back. Technically they were aliens and they entered earth!

Weight of the Copper Tube with a Falling Magnet

By Anupum Pant

Remember I talked about Copper tube and a magnet a couple of days back? Turns out the same happens when you use an aluminium tube too. In short, a magnet (a strong one – neodymium magnet) when dropped into an aluminium or copper pipe falls very slowly, as if gravity stops acting on it.

It is due to the opposing magnetic forces generated by the electric field which is in turn generated by the magnetic field of the magnet (more in the link above).

That said, have you wondered what happens to the weight of the tube when the magnet is falling? Does it increase, decrease or remain the same? Just give it a guess and watch the following video.

The Royal Institution Explains:

Hit like if you learnt something today.

The Domino Effect Physics Can be Pretty Incredible

By Anupum Pant

 falling dominoesDomino effect is a fairly well-known mechanical effect in which a single falling domino (A tile of the tile-based game called Dominoes) causes a chain reaction. The resulting chain reaction depends on the size of arrangement – number of arranged dominoes.

Usually  hundred to hundred thousand equal sized dominoes are carefully arranged to form a sequence. Then, the first domino is flicked to start a huge chain reaction. There have been several world records with kinds of falling-domino-patterns based on this effect. But there is one thing about the domino effect that isn’t popularly known.

The 2X rule

When these falling domino records are made, they are usually done with equal sized dominoes. Suppose, continuously increasing sized dominoes are used in sequence, the size of falling dominoes can go really huge, pretty fast.

The limit: When the size of second domino is from 1.5 to 2 times the size ( says a physics study) of the first domino, it can fall with ease. But that is the limit. If the second domino is any larger than 2 times the size of the previous domino, it won’t fall down – stopping the chain reaction in between. So, 1.5 times the size of the previous domino is a pretty safe increment to use, if you really want your chain reaction to complete.

So, Morris in the video below, uses the first domino which is 5mm high and 1mm thick (I’m wondering how he manages to balance it on the 1mm side). The domino placed next to it is, 1.5 times thicker, longer and wider. So, if it is made of the same material, the second one would weigh more than 3.3 times the weight of the first one. Now do the math.

He uses 13 dominoes with increasing sizes. The last one is about a meter tall and weighs about 50 kg. Remember, the first one probably weighed no more than a few grams.

He flicks the 5 mm domino and within a second or two, due to the chain reaction, the largest one that weighs 50 kg, falls down with a huge bang. Had he used a few more dominoes and would have made the count to 29, the last one would have been as tall as the Empire State building. Imagine a domino of that size falling with such a measly initial energy expended to make the 5 mm sized domino fall.

The amplification of energy is about 2 Billion times! Thanks to the stored Gravitational energy.

Physics is marvelous. Isn’t it? [Video]