You’ve probably noticed that this website is entitled “Physics with Cats.” I suppose we could have used almost any animal (Physics with Penguins?), but why would we do that when cats are nearly synonymous with physics. Think I’m exaggerating? Read on and be amazed.
Let’s start with the most famous cat in physics: Schrödinger’s cat. In his famous thought experiment, Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger sought to demonstrate the concept of quantum superposition. This is the idea that a subatomic particle can simultaneously exist in multiple possible states, but the act of observing the particle causes it to revert to a single state.
In his example, Schrödinger postulated that a cat be placed in a box with a radioactive element which randomly may or may not decay. If it did decay, poison would be released into the box killing the cat. However, if there was no decay, the cat would be fine. From a quantum standpoint, the cat would be both alive and dead while the box is sealed. However, when the box is opened, one would see either a living or dead cat. Glad this was merely a thought experiment. See how the mere act of adding a cat made this complicated physics principle easy to understand.
Schrödinger’s cat wasn’t the only one to impact physics. It’s a little known fact, but Isaac Newton’s cat Hermes was instrumental in helping him discover the law of gravity. What do you think Newton was doing under that tree when the apple hit him in the head? Scratching Hermes behind the ears. And Einstein’s cat Fluffipoo (yes Einstein was a tad eccentric) was his constant companion as he derived the Theory of Relativity. Fluffipoo’s encouraging purrs and head butts kept Albert going when he was on the verge of giving up. Their place in the history of physics alone warrants the use of “with Cats” in this website’s title, but there’s still more. (Editor’s Note: The information in the preceding paragraph was provided by a cat so it may not be entirely true.)
Just look at some common cat activities: knocking things off tables, batting balls and other objects about, and chasing laser pointers. This isn’t just a cat’s way of entertaining itself, but physics experiments. Look at the physics principles involved: gravitational acceleration, inelastic collisions, momentum transfer, and the refractive properties of light. And there is yet more.
Ever wonder why cats sometimes just seem to be staring into space? Well believe it or not, they’re contemplating free-body diagrams, equations of motion, force calculations, and mass moments of inertia. Impossible? Just look at what cats are capable of: always landing on their feet, leaping with incredible accuracy, and demonstrating amazing balance while walking on narrow ledges. That’s not even accounting for their incredible ability to manipulate time and space. There can be no doubt that cats have mastered physics.
Considering all this evidence, we had no choice but to use “Physics with Cats.” “Why cats?,” isn’t the question we should be asking. Instead, the question should be, “why in the world would you use any animal other than cats?”
Well I hope this fully explains, “Why Cats?” Now if you’d please excuse me, it seems my cat Tommy has made a breakthrough in Chaos Theory, which apparently involves the high speed dispersal of multiple cats within a closed volume.
Copyright © 2023 Parker T. Allan, Physics with Cats - All Rights Reserved.