Found this book at my school’s library and I’m glad I did because I probably never would have known about it otherwise. Cool title and great storyline. Falling Felines and Fundamental Physics explains how science has dealt with the topic of cats always landing on their feet.
The first main thing that had to happen to study this phenomenon tho (instead of just accepting that they do always fall on their feet) was the invention of the camera. Without being able to film it, the cat’s twist in the air happens too fast for the human eye to really see. So the camera situation gets figured out and now scientists had pictures of falling cats and could see how and when it happens.
But even with the pictures, there were still a lot of questions. How did they get the momentum to spin over and and how did they even know which direction could land them on the ground? Maybe it was their tail (but even cats with no tails can land). Maybe it’s the balancing fluid in their ears (but even with a damaged vestibular system could right itself–a cat with no sight and no vestibular system, however wouldn’t bother). Learning more about the relationship between the brain and the spine was also necessary to understanding automatic reactions and bodily memories.
Eventually the bend and turn theory came about and people have been pretty satisfied with that as the clearest explanation. That says cats bend their bodies in half, then twists in opposite ways to right itself. Other factors like memory, weight, and posture also factor in. Actually all of these theories kinda factor in. By the end of the book it’s like, cats probably use their tails and their twist and their body shape in different ways for different falls. In that way, this book teaches something about the scientific process as a whole. It takes so many people to build up and out on any given idea.
I think it was also great just to read a physics book. As in, to be able to and to know what was going on. Cuz it’s not all cats all the time–Gregory Gbur tells the life stories of many scientists along the way, information about their work and feuds and lifestyles. It’s also a lot of science. Gbur breaks down Einstein and Galileo and Newton because it’s all relevant. Mistakes were relevant enough to make it in to the book too. It was cool in general to see the ways that people–plural, as a group–do science.