Cats & Gravity

Your Cat May Understand Physics Better Than You Do

According to a new study, cats understand certain laws of physics. Does this make them smarter than their owners? Dog lovers will probably have an opinion on this. If he were still around, Isaac Newton might have one as well.

This study may be viewed as evidence for cats having a rudimentary understanding of gravity.

And not just the “cats always land on all fours” kind of gravity. Researchers from Kyoto University in Japan, led by Saho Takagi, collected 22 cats from Japanese cat cafes and eight domestic cats (they weren’t volunteers – cats don’t volunteer for anything) and tested their ability to understand the physics principle of cause-and-effect and some others.



Cat cafes? In countries like Japan where cats are popular but apartments allowing cats are not, cat cafes charge people an hourly rate to come in and play with cats. Sounds like a great plan to prevent the stray cat problem other countries like the U.S. have.

The researchers used a plastic container lined with an electromagnet and three iron balls to test the cats. They rattles the balls and dumped them out, then turned on the magnet, rattled the box (no sound) and nothing came out. Next they switched things around to fake out the cats – noise with no balls dropping, no noise with balls dropping.

According to the study, the cats demonstrated their awareness of gravity by moving away from the noisy box so they didn’t get hit by falling iron balls. Then they showed their awareness of cause-and-effect by staring longer at the box that made noise (anticipating the falling balls) and looking puzzled when sometimes nothing came out of a noisy box.

cat_physicsAt the risk of sounding like a biased dog owner … that’s it?

The results suggest that cats used a causal-logical understanding of auditory stimuli to predict the appearance of invisible objects. The ecology of cats’ natural hunting style may favor the ability for inference on the basis of sounds.


cat and dog


“Hunting based on sounds” sounds like the strategy of many animals, not just cats. If this is a demonstration of an understanding of physics, then there’s a lot of pets who could qualify for government grants to conduct government studies like this one.

Do cats understand physics better than some humans? Can you think of anyone you know who would flunk the “iron balls stuck to hidden magnets” test? Sober?

Did this cat sleep through the physics class on gravity?

Did this cat sleep through the physics class on gravity?


Gravity & Dark Matter

Dutch scientist publishes new theory of gravity

Erik Verlinde

@erikverlinde / Twitter
University of Amsterdam scientist Erik Verlinde published a new theory of gravity which he debunks the existence of dark matter, NOS reports.

Astronomers often note in their observations that they observe more gravity in galaxies than the number of stars would suggest. This extra gravity is attributed to dark matter – an unknown substance believed to hold the galaxies together.

But in Verlinde’s new theory, he can calculate the movements of stars without including dark matter in the calculations. According to NOS, this is the first time that a scientist develop a theory that fits the observations of astronomers.

According to Verlinde, physisicsts are working on a revision on Einstein’s theory of relativity “Our current ideas about space, time and gravity urgently need to be re-thought. We have long known that Einstein’s theory of gravity can not work with quantum mechanics”, he said, according to NOS. “Our findings are drastically changing, and I think that we are on the eve of a scientific revolution.”


New Shpes in Gravity Waves

Bizarre Star-Shaped Gravity Waves Created

Charles Choi, LiveScience Contributor
Date: 22 February 2013
star-shaped gravity wave
Researchers have discovered a new type of gravity wave, one that is shaped like a star. Such bizarre waves result from a property called nonlinearity, in which a small or simple change results in a disproportionately large or complex effect. For instance, aspects of weather behave chaotically, in a nonlinear manner.
CREDIT: Jean Rajchenbach, Alphonse Leroux, and Didier Clamond (CNRS and Université de Nice, France)

Star-shaped waves can form in vibrating tanks of liquid oil, researchers say.

Learning more about such bizarre waves could shed light on counterparts that may exist elsewhere in nature, researchers added.

Waves of all kinds often behave in an intuitively linear manner. For instance, a weight on a spring will bob up and down in a manner directly proportional to the force that the weight exerts on the spring.

However, a number of strange waves can also form. They come from what is called nonlinearity, in which a small or simple change results in a disproportionately large or complex effect. For instance, aspects of weather behave chaotically, in a nonlinear manner.

The waves seen on the surface of water also behave in a nonlinear manner, and bizarre phenomena can result, such as X- and Y-shaped ocean waves or monstrously large freak waves that seem to come out of nowhere. Scientists have spotted similar nonlinear effects elsewhere in nature, such as with super-cooled atoms or light traveling in fiber optics.

To uncover new, remarkable nonlinear waves, scientists experimented with circular and rectangular tanks containing about two-fifths of an inch (1 centimeter) of silicon oil. Researchers placed the tanks on shakers to vibrate the fluid. Scientists then observed that the liquid contained gravity waves — oscillations due to gravity pulling downward and vibrations pushing upward.

A new type of gravity wave eventually resulted, which alternated in shape between stars and polygons — for instance, between a five-pointed star and a five-sided pentagon. The researchers could change the shapes of these stars and polygons by altering the strength and frequency of the vibrations.

The gravity waves in the liquid interact in a nonlinear manner, resonating and building in complexity, somewhat like how a playground swing will climb higher from repeated pushes. This is the first time such nonlinear, resonant interactions have been seen with gravity waves.

Intriguingly, the shapes of these waves did not depend on the form of the containers housing the fluid.

“It is generally accepted that the shape of the waves depends on the container shape,” said researcher Jean Rajchenbach, a physicist at the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis in France. “The fact that the pattern shape is here recovered independently of the container shape is surprising, mysterious and stimulating. We have no clear explanation.

“This finding just emphasizes that the domain of highly nonlinear waves is still ‘terra incognita,’ or unknown territory,” Rajchenbach told LiveScience.

Rajchenbach and his colleagues Didier Clamond and Alphonse Leroux detailed their findings in a paper accepted by the journal Physical Review Letters on Feb. 1.


Lasting Effects of Japanese Earthquake

7 Strange Ways the Japan Quake Shook the World

Andrea Thompson, OurAmazingPlanet Managing Editor
Date: 09 March 2012 Time: 09:48 AM ET


Japan 2011 earthquake map
Map showing the 11 March 2011 magnitude 9.0 off Tohoku mainshock and 166 aftershocks of magnitude 5.5 and greater until May 20. Warmer color indicates more recent events. Larger symbol indicates greater quake magnitude.

One year ago on March 11, the intense shaking and massive tsunami set off by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Japan wrought noticeable effects on our planet.

Not only did the twin events cause widespread damage along Japan’s coast — thequake was the largest in the country’s history — but they also triggered effects across the globe, from the surface to high up in the atmosphere. They even slightly altered the Earth’s gravity.

Here, OurAmazingPlanet reviews the strangest effects the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami had on our planet.

7 – Cracks in the seafloor

The earthquake ruptured below the seafloor off the coast of the Tohoku region, ripping open cracks along the ocean bottom. Submersibles spied these cracks, which measured around 3 to 6 feet (around 1 to 3meters) across, in the months after the earthquake.

fissure along seafloor after March 2011 japan earthquake
The many large earthquakes that have shaken our planet lately are the result of random events, not a pattern suggesting an uptick in such quakes. Shown here, one of the fissures that opened up on the seafloor after the March 2011 earthquake struck off Japan’s coast.
CREDIT: Norio Miyamoto, JAMSTEC

6 – Smaller quakes triggered worldwide

The massive 9.0 temblor shook large sections of Japan and is still setting off aftershocks in the area. But the shaking wasn’t limited to the immediate region, some scientists think. There is evidence that the quake set off microquakes and tremors around the globe, mostly in places already known for their seismic activity such as Taiwan, Alaska and central California. These events likely didn’t exceed a magnitude of 3.0.

However, some of the quakes occurred in low-activity areas, such as central Nebraska, central Arkansas and near Beijing. Tremors were even detected in Cuba. Scientists hope that linking these seismic events can help them better understand the inner workings of earthquakes. [Pictures: Japan Earthquake & Tsunami]

5 – Antarctic ice stream sped up

Thousands of miles away from Japan, the seismic waves of the Tohoku earthquake appeared to temporarily speed up the flow of the Whillans glacier. Glaciers are essentially rivers of ice that slowly flow, in the case of Antarctica, from the interior of the continent out to sea. The increased pace of the ice stream was detected by GPS stations located on the ice.

Japan Tsunami Iceberg

4 – Antarctic iceberg broken

The earthquake and its resulting tsunami were so powerful and far-reaching that they also broke off huge icebergs from Antarctica’s Sulzberger Ice Shelf. (An ice shelf is the part of a glacier that floats atop the sea.) Satellite images detected thetsunami waves breaking off chunks of ice some 18 hours after the earthquake.

3 – Atmosphere was rattled

The massive earthquake not only shook the earth, but also rattled the atmosphere.

Research had indicated that the surface motions and tsunamis that earthquakes generate can also trigger waves in the atmosphere, and the Japan earthquake generated the largest such disturbances seen yet, creating ripples in electrically charged particles reaching nearly 220 miles (350 kilometers) above the Earth.

2 – Gravity altered

The earthquake was so powerful that it altered the pull of gravity under the area affected by the quake, as detected by the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites. The quake slightly thinned the crust, causes a slight reduction in the local gravity field.

1 – Earth’s day shortened

An analysis conducted just days after the earthquake struck found that the temblor accelerated Earth’s spin, shortening the length of the 24-hour day by 1.8 microseconds. A microsecond is a millionth of a second.

The planet’s rotation sped up because the earthquake shifted the distribution of Earth’s mass, said geophysicist Richard Gross at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., who made the calculation.





Michel Tremblay on Gravity Breakthrough

Gravity Breakthrough: Springing into a Gravitational Revolution
By Roland Michel Tremblay

Roland Michel Tremblay

Roland Michel Tremblay is a French Canadian author, poet, scriptwriter, development producer and science-fiction consultant. See his website here:    

Gravity is one of the most familiar everyday phenomena, yet it has mystified scientists and laymen for centuries. Even today, although the current official position on gravity is a continual “space-time warping” around objects – a claim from Einstein’s General Relativity theory, it is also still widely considered an endless attracting force emanating from objects, as claimed in Newton’s gravitational theory. Setting aside the troubling implications of two different physical descriptions of gravity in our science for the moment, it turns out that the behavior of a simple spring may hold the final answer to this age-old mystery.

Consider what happens when a loosely coiled spring is stretched apart from both ends while laying on a tabletop, as shown below in the left-hand frame. The opposing forces spread equally across the spring, causing an equal coil spacing across the spring, which also occurs whether either force pulls fully from the very end or is divided to pull directly on each coil:


However, with only a single continual pulling force on one end, shown on the right, the coils stretch more at the leading end as they strain to continually accelerate the ongoing resisting inertia of the rest of the spring. In this case, there is successively less stretch toward the trailing end as there is successively less trailing-coil mass to cause inertial drag.

This deceptively simple experiment has enormous implications for both Newton’s gravitational force and Einstein’s ‘warped space-time’ theory of gravity – and for understanding the true physical nature of gravity itself. The first important point is that it highlights a widely overlooked but critical error surrounding Einstein’s famous “space elevator” thought experiment, which forms the foundation of hisPrinciple of Equivalence and his later associated General Relativity theory of gravity.

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Latest Gravity Map

Best Gravity Map Yet Shows a Lumpy, Bumpy Earth

Nola Taylor Redd, Contributor
Date: 02 June 2011 Time: 07:00 AM ET
ESA’s GOCE mission has delivered the most accurate model of the ‘geoid’ ever produced. Red corresponds to points with higher gravity, and blue to points with lower gravity.

Take a clay model of Earth and squish it with your fingers, and the result may look similar to the geoid — the latest and best-ever map of our planet’s gravitational field.

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