"The amount of liquid available for the cat to capture each time it closes its mouth depends on the size and speed of the tongue. Our research the experimental measurements and theoretical predictions suggests that the cat chooses the speed in order to maximize the amount of liquid ingested per lap," said Aristoff, a mathematician who studies liquid surfaces. "This suggests that cats are smarter than many people think, at least when it comes to hydrodynamics."
Aristoff said the team benefitted from the diverse scientific backgrounds of its members: engineering, physics and mathematics.
"In the beginning of the project, we weren't fully confident that fluid mechanics played a role in cat's drinking. But as the project went on, we were surprised and amused by the beauty of the fluid mechanics involved in this system," said Jung, an engineer whose research focuses on soft bodies, like fish, and the fluids surrounding them.
The work began three-and-a-half years ago when Stocker, who studies the fluid mechanics of the movements of ocean microbes, was watching his cat lap milk. That cat, eight-year-old Cutta Cutta, stars in the researchers' best videos and still pictures. And like all movie stars (Cutta Cutta means "stars stars" in an Australian aboriginal language), he likes being waited on. With their cameras trained on Cutta Cutta's bowl, Stocker and Reis said they spent hours at the Stocker home waiting on Cutta Cutta to drink, that is. But the wait didn't dampen their enthusiasm for the project, which very appropriately originated from a sense of curiosity.
"Science allows us to look at natural processes with a different eye and to understand how things work, even if that's figuring out how my cat laps his breakfast," Stocker said. "It's a job, but also a passion, and this project for me was a high point in teamwork and creativity. We did it without any funding, without any graduate students, without much
|Contact: Denise Brehm|
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering