Buttered cat paradox

Buttered cat paradox

The buttered cat paradox is a joke paradox based on the tongue-in-cheek combination of two adages:

* Cats always land on their feet.
* Buttered toast always lands buttered side down.

The paradox arises when one considers what would happen if one attached a piece of buttered toast (butter side up) to the back of a cat, then dropped the cat from a large height.

Thought experiments

Some people jokingly maintain that the experiment will produce an anti-gravity effect. They propose that as the cat falls towards the ground, it will slow down and start to rotate, eventually reaching a steady state of hovering a short distance from the ground while rotating at high speed as both the buttered side of the toast and the cat’s feet attempt to land on the ground. [ [http://www.waikato.ac.nz/fmd/newsletter/Newsletter_No14.pdf UoWaikato newsletter] ] This, however, would require the energy that keeps them rotating to come from the gravitational energy expended in the system's fall; otherwise it would violate the Law of Conservation of Energy.

Another theory is that as the cat is dropped and begins to rotate at a very high speed, the butter will begin to fly off of the toast, until it is all removed. Once the butter is removed, the cat will simply fall to the ground on its feet, as the piece of toast on the cat's back is now butterless.

In popular culture

* In June 2003, Kimberly Miner won a Student Academy Award for her film "Perpetual Motion". [Available at http://unreal.rit.edu/Kim_Miner/Perpetual_Motion.ram] Miner based her film on a paper written by a high-school friend that explored the potential implications of the cat and buttered toast idea. [ University of Leeds. [http://www.physics.leeds.ac.uk/pages/PerpetualMotion "Perpetual Motion"] .] [ [http://www.scifidimensions.com/Apr04/oscaranimation.htm Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts 2003] ]
* In the comic book strip Jack B. Quick the title character seeks to test this theory, leading to the cat hovering above the ground, with the cat's wagging tail providing propulsion. Eventually the cat crashes to the ground as it manages to lick the butter from the toast.
* The 2005-03-31 strip of the webcomic "Bunny" presented the Pink bunny's plan for the "Perpetual Motion MoggieToast5k Power Generator", based on Sod's Law. [ [http://bunny.frozenreality.co.uk/index.php?id=211 Feline cunning and sods law] ]
* In "Science Askew", Donald E. Simanek comments on this phenomenon. [Donald E. Simanek, "Science Askew: A Light-hearted look at the scientific world", Taylor and Francis, 2001. pg 201. See [http://books.google.com/books?id=ldX0FkgurzoC&pg=PA201&dq=butter+cat+perpetual+motion&sig=PLNFCX51m4RKHzWDq5LyC7fq5oo| here on Google Books] ]

See also

* Irresistible force paradox
* Murphy's law
* Schrödinger's cat
* Perpetual motion

References

External links

* [http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg15220568.300.html "New Scientist"]
* [http://cgi.cs.indiana.edu/~oracle/bestof.cgi?N=426-450 "The Usenet Oracle"] where this joke appeared in 1992.
* [http://www.xs4all.nl/~jcdverha/scijokes/2_21.html#subindex Loopholes for the paradox]


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