In case you’re not tired yet of hearing about my book on Falling Felines and Fundamental Physics, I wrote a post for BBC Science Focus Magazine about the falling cat phenomenon, which you can read here. A sample of the article:
With the recognition of conservation of energy, physicists soon decided that a cat simply cannot flip over on its own in freefall once it begins falling. The consensus view was that a cat, at the moment it begins to fall, must push off of its perch to give itself some initial rotation that leads to it ending on its feet. The cat generates its angular momentum by imparting the opposite angular momentum to its perch and, consequently, the Earth itself.
But this explanation was demolished in a fateful meeting of the French Academy of Sciences on October 22, 1894, by the physiologist Etienne-Jules Marey. Marey presented a sequence of high-speed photographs taken of a falling cat, the first of their kind, showing clearly that the cat begins falling upside-down without any rotation but nevertheless manages to turn over to land on its feet.
The revelations of the photographs threw the meeting into disarray. One member of the Academy declared that Marey “had presented them with a scientific paradox in direct contradiction with the most elementary mechanical principles.”
I’ll be back with more posts soon!