Pioneers across many different fields of scientific research attended the 27th annual Ig Nobel Awards at Harvard University. A parody of their namesake, the awards praise research that makes people laugh and then think.
The 2017 Ig Nobel Prize was based around the theme of uncertainty. From the brain’s cheese aversion to the fluid dynamics of cats, we picked our favourite Ig Nobel Prize winner.
The Ig Nobel Prize for physics went to Marc-Antoine Fardin’s 2014 paper, On the Rheology of Cats. “Cats are proving to be a rich model system for rheological research” (the branch of physics that deals with the deformation of matter), Fardin said, as cited by The Smithsonian Magazine.
He used the physics of fluid dynamics to establish whether cats could be considered both liquid and solid. Fardin noticed that these furry pets can adapt to the shape of the container they sit in—think of a cat in a vase—similarly to what fluids such as water do. Besides, he determined cats’ relaxation time or the time it takes for them to take up the space of a vase or bathroom sink. The image below gives an example of the lotus effect of Felis catus, suggesting that the substrate (the basket) is superfelidaphobic – highly cat phobic.
This behaviour is normally distinguished from the yield stress that cats can also show. In this situation, the cat cannot flow because it is below its yield stress, like ketchup in its bottle. It is yet uncertain what physical and chemical properties cause superfelidaphobicity.
Do you have any further evidence to support the above theory? Cats – liquid or solid?